A Brampton resident has triggered an investigation to determine if Peel Region councillors broke Municipal Act rules when they decided the public would not be permitted to hear what experts told politicians about the benefits and possible dangers of water fluoridation.
A special Jan. 21 meeting was organized to educate council members about the fluoridation of municipal drinking water.
Experts on both sides of the debate, which has rekindled on the health benefits and risks that may come from the longstanding practice in Peel, offered informed opinion and scientific research on community water fluoridation. Council also heard from municipal staff on the subject.
The meeting was well publicized in advance – even providing the community with an agenda detailing the time, location and list of delegates scheduled to appear.
However, council members voted to conduct the proceedings behind closed doors.
The decision upset some members of the community, especially those who have been advocating for an end to local water fluoridation for years and have even gone so far as to launch a court challenge.
Christine Massey, who has been among those protesting water fluoridation in Peel, wants to know why the public was barred from the meeting and initiated a Closed Session Investigation under the Municipal Act.
Under the act, educational or training sessions may be closed to the public as long as council members do not discuss or deal with any matter “in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making” of council.
A week after the education session, councillors convened for their regular meeting and agreed to form an ad hoc committee that is now taking a deeper look at the benefits and possible health risks of water fluoridation and seeking broad community engagement to establish a Regional position on the issue.
Brampton councillor John Sprovieri was at the special meeting. For years, he has been relentless in trying to force the Region to stop adding fluoride to the local drinking water supply.
When the education session was organized, councillors never intended to have discussion conducted in public, according to Sprovieri.
The issue has attracted heated protests in the past and councillors did not want any distractions from the public, he explained.
“The anti-fluoride group, some are very passionate and vocal on the issue and we’ve seen that in the past in council chamber,” noted Sprovieri, but admitted the information council heard would also have been very enlightening for the general public.
The municipality can appoint an investigator or refer a Closed Session Investigation request to the Ontario Ombudsman.
Peel Region has appointed Local Authority Services to carry out the investigation. The organization is a not-for-profit created by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in 1992 to procure and provide municipalities with competitively priced and co-operative services.
Local Authority Services contracts Amberley Gavel Ltd., a London Ontario-based company formed in 2007 to assist municipalities with closed meeting investigations, to provide investigation services.
The investigator can make recommendations when they file a final report.