Citing a duplication of confidentiality rules between the District of North Saanich community charter and its council oath of office bylaw, council voted to repeal that oath on Oct. 1.
The vote effectively returns council to its previous oath of office, one that did not make as strong a point on the confidentiality rules.
Brought into effect in 2010, an oath of office bylaw update by the council of the day included a confidential information stipulation. It, in effect, mirrored Section 117 of the charter, which lays out the rules of confidential information handled by the municipality, and the ramifications for members of council.
Mayor Alice Finall says the 2010 bylaw alerts councillors, new and old, and the public about issues of confidentiality on council.
“Not only is there that civil responsibility, but under the the Freedom of Information (and Protection of Privacy) Act, there is a criminal aspect,” she said, noting a breach of said act can bring legal action against a municipality or a councillor.
Councillor Celia Stock agreed confidentiality is a good thing to emphasize and noted councillor Dunstan Browne had said in his proposal to repeal the 2010 oath bylaw, that it was a duplication of the charter and not needed.
Stock said it was important to her to ensure the rule was made doubly-clear, by means of the oath of office.
A 4-3 vote ended the discussion and the 2010 oath of office bylaw was repealed.
The contentious oath:
“As required by Section 117 of the Community Charter, unless specifically authorized otherwise by Council, I will keep in confidence any record held in confidence by the municipality until that record is released to the public as lawfully authorized or required, and I will keep in confidence any information considered in any part of a Council or Committee meeting that was lawfully closed to the public, until the Council or Committee discusses the information at a meeting that is open to the public or releases the information to the public, and l recognize that I may be held liable if I contravene my duty to respect confidentiality.”