Council said to be Acting Outside its Jurisdiction

At the Committee of the Whole (CoW) Council meeting on June 21, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (EDIAC) recommended to Council that they send a letter of support of Bill C-6 to the Federal Government.  This bill would make conversion therapy a crime. (Conversion therapy tries to negate someone’s desire to change sex identification). Councillor Beatty had moved the motion at the Advisory Committee and promoted the idea at the CoW meeting.  Councillor Chorley had reservations about supporting the motion since it is outside Council’s jurisdiction but supported other activities of the committee that are within the municipality’s jurisdiction.  The CoW vote was in favour 5-1 (see wording of motion below) – Councillor Emily Chorley abstained and Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin voted against.

Nicole Beatty - file photo
Nicole Beatty – file photo

But at the following Regular Council meeting where this motion was put to a confirming vote, there was further debate.  Suzanne Séguin had strong reservations about lobbying the Federal Government.  First it’s not necessary since there is good support in Parliament with a vote of 263 to 63 vote at third reading and second it’s not within Council’s jurisdiction.  She was also concerned with the burden on staff of sending 444 letters to all municipalities.  She wanted to know why was it even on the Agenda and that Advisory committees are supposed to recommend actions to Council and not lobby Federal or Provincial Governments.  Councillor Darling supported her.

Councillor Beatty’s response was to point to other motions that Council had passed such as declaring a climate emergency and addressing conservation and homelessness.  She pointed out that it was up to Councillors whether they supported her motion.

When a vote was called on the motion to “support Bill C-6” (see copy of motion below), the vote was not “recorded” but was clearly as follows (you can confirm in the video – see below on how to access the video):

Mayor John Henderson – for the motion
Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin – against the motion
Councillor Brian Darling – against the motion
Councillor Nicole Beatty – for the motion
Councillor Emily Chorley – abstained
Councillor Aaron Burchat – for the motion
Councillor Adam Bureau – for the motion

So the motion passed since a majority (4) were in favour.

For the record, Councillors Beatty, Chorley and Bureau are on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee – a list of all advisory committees is available here


Apart from the actual motions (below), the source of information for this article is the video record of Council debate and actions.  The new escribe software does an excellent job of keeping these videos and indexing them to the agenda (Thanks Brent). To access, go to escribe then “Past Meetings” then choose the meeting category (Committee of the Whole and Regular Council) then select HTML Agenda.  Go to the Agenda item (listed below) then click.  The video for that agenda item is then available.

  • Committee of the Whole June 21 – Agenda Item 10.6
  • Regular Council June 28 – Agenda Item 12.2.3

Committee of the Whole June 21
Motion from Cobourg Equity Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (EDIAC):

Moved by Member Councillor Beatty

THAT the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee recommend Council write a letter of support to Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and David Lametti the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and the Federal Government on behalf of Municipal Council in support of Bill C-6, being an act to amend the Criminal Code of Canada (Conversion Therapy) as it has been presented without any amendments; and

FURTHER THAT this motion and the letter of support be sent to all municipalities in the County of Northumberland, Phillip Lawrence Member of Federal Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South and David Piccini, Member of Provincial Parliament for Northumberland-Peterborough South, and all other municipalities in Ontario.


This motion was also subsequently carried in the CoW meeting 5-1.

Council Meeting June 28

WHEREAS at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on June 21, 2021, Council considered a Memo from the Secretary of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee regarding support for Bill C-6 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Conversion Therapy)

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council send a letter of support (be sent) to all municipalities in the County of Northumberland, Phillip Lawrence Member of Federal Parliament for Northumberland— Peterborough South and David Piccini, Member of Provincial Parliament for Northumberland-Peterborough South, and all other municipalities in Ontario

Links re Bill C-6

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Brian Wynn
2 years ago

This is outside of jurisdiction, costs time and money. Moreover, even a grade 4 student would question the impact it will have on ANYONE! The good news is that staff have loads of extra time on their hands and Cobourg has a bountiful amount of taxpayer’s money to spend on high priority items such as this.

Assuming there is other very strong rationale behind this decision (which I have obviously missed) I want to applaud the obvious council politics going on here!

Reply to  Brian Wynn
2 years ago

Our council and staff would appear to be spending tax money on new and repairs to sidewalks that hardly any people use. Brilliant!!!

Keith Oliver
2 years ago

Through all of the preceding entries there has been virtually no attempt to define exactly what constitutes the “legitimate jurisdiction” of Cobourg Town Council. The entry by Miriam at 7:39 pm on June 30 comes closest.

While I am personally sympathetic to the intent of Bill C-6 and have expressed my views to my MP, I believe that the decision by Council to influence a vote in the Federal Parliament is misguided if not a dangerous precedent.

Town Councils are elected to tax and to provide a transparent and public forum for debate and decision making that keeps the electorate fully informed as to how their tax dollars are being spent.

I respectfully disagree with Councilor Beatty’s assertion that Council set a precedent by it’s decisions/statements on climate, conservation and homelessness. By doing so it did not try to influence a vote of any Parliment. It can be argued that such statements are intended to notify the electorate of how Council is likely to deal with such issues in the future.

There is no question but that the governance of municipalities has become more complicated, more inclusive than when Cobourg became one of the first municipalities under the Municipal Act of 1850 … but in the end it’s all about how our tax dollars are spent and little else.

Lemon Cake
Reply to  Keith Oliver
2 years ago

I agree with this. Climate change in particular is an issue that will at some point factor into infrastructure spending or otherwise for municipalities like ours. While I’m personally in favour of ending conversion therapy, this bill will not impact council’s decision making down the road. And honestly if this kind of empty letter writing is the goal of the town’s new diversity and inclusion work, then in my opinion this work is going in the wrong direction and – worse – will amplify and exacerbate divisions in this town. Let’s leave the culture wars on social media.

Lemon Cake
2 years ago

This Council can’t decide to cross the road without hiring KPMG to tell them what to do. And yet they’re spending time on this? This must be something other municipalities are doing as well otherwise I’m not sure this group would ever choose to break from the herd. I’d be curious to know what precedent they’re following.

2 years ago

Jurisdictions are well defined, there is a law on the books to prevent council from acting outside of them. Yet council continues to act outside their jurisdiction.

It seems like this mission creep is being caused by our left-wing council’s extreme desire to virtue signal.

Wally Keeler
2 years ago

Town Council in 1982 passed a motion supporting a referendum on nuclear disarmament between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Fortunately the peace through strength policy as advocated by Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Andrei Sakharov, prevailed a few years later under Reagan. Cobourg Council’s motion turned out to be a nothing burger.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
2 years ago

Another example of “virtue signaling” then, as noted above.

ben burd
2 years ago

Somewhere tucked away in the bowels of the Council minutes is a motion to the effect that prohibits Council acting outside of its jurisdiction.If you don’t believe me ask the esteemed Fmr Cllr Tony Farren – he authored it!

John Draper
Reply to  ben burd
2 years ago

Thanks Ben. I found the following:

Council Procedural By-Law – By Law number 100-2008
A by-law to establish rules of order and procedures to govern the proceedings of the Municipal Council. Passed: December 8. 2008

20.11 ULTRA-VIRES A motion in respect of a matter which is beyond the Jurisdiction of the Council shall not be in order.

Unless this by-law has been modified then it seems that the Council’s motion was not in order – that is, has no effect. Am I wrong?

Reply to  John Draper
2 years ago

If the current version of the Procedural By-law is By-Law 009-2019, Section 18.11 uses the same wording but the title is ‘Beyond Jurisdiction’ rather than ‘Ultra Vires’.

It seems to me that if a proposed change in legislation or funding model at another level of government, provincial or federal, could impact the function of a local municipality or could be a matter of concern or in common with all Ontario/national municipalities there is a role for advocacy.

For example, I believe it was Rosemere Quebec that took one of the earliest positions in the banning the cosmetic use of lawn pesticides/herbicides, and, now it is an Ontario provincial regulation.

Reply to  ben burd
2 years ago

Ben & John D:

As MiriamM comments below: “…..the Procedural By-law is By-Law 009-2019, Section 18.11 uses the same wording but the title is ‘Beyond Jurisdiction’ rather than ‘Ultra Vires’.”

BL 009-2019 is the current procedures by-law.

The section reads:


18.11 A motion in respect of a matter which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Council shall not be in order.

It appears that Ben and John D are correct. The motion should not have progressed and been voted on. It will be interesting to see how Brent Larmer (clerk) and Council handle this.

Reply to  Bryan
2 years ago

Could employ the famous Roseann Roseannadanna line from SNL: Never Mind. Beyond that, the best run organizations have their leadership stay firmly focused on their own lane of responsibility.

2 years ago

This has nothing to do with day to day operations of the Town.Isn’t there enought to do locally?

Last edited 2 years ago by Informed
Bloated Senior
2 years ago

Thank you Councillors who voted yes to “lobby” our Federal government.
I expect my representatives to represent my interests; to the County, to the Province and to the Federal government. You can be on the right side of
history, or the wrong side.

Reply to  Bloated Senior
2 years ago

Do you know that you have an MP and an MPP that exist to do just that?

2 years ago

The above link explains a few things on this topic.

Seeking information on this matter, I took a look at the Council’s advisory committees meeting agenda and minutes, as well as Council meeting agenda for the Committee of the Whole and subsequent Regular meeting. I unless I somehow missed it, where is the draft of the letter proposed to be sent by Council? Interesting that Council appears to have made a final vote without seeing the letter they will be sending!

Reply to  MiriamM
2 years ago

Miriam, why are you surprised? Many of our Councillors often vote on issues without any understanding.