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How did we get here?

Local government public hearings are a result of:

  • The evolution of British legal practice 

  • The shifts in governing values 

  • The actions of individuals 

In England, judges settle local disputes through travelling courts and begin to have independence from the British monarch. The practice evolves into British Common Law, legal administration, and procedural due process.

In England, Enclosure Acts begin removing town commons to define locations of private property and public infrastructure. The practice allowed those with potential land rights to make statements to a panel of decision-makers.

New England Town Hall meetings emerge for deciding local issues and land use in the colonies.

Nova Scotia outlaws public meetings as British loyalists flee north. Some blame the New England Town Hall meetings for causing the US Revolutionary War.

A Statute for Upper Canada includes rules for public notice for the first time. It requires justices of the peace to give local constables 8 days notice before assembling town members.

Ontario District Council Act establishes elected Councils that resemble local government bodies we know today.

Indigenous leaders organize against BC government decisions to shrink reserves, prohibit Indigenous peoples from purchasing land, and encourage settlement and resource extraction in non-reserve lands. Indigenous leaders continue to organize and advocate for 150+ years.

Constitution Act recognizes only federal and provincial levels of Canada’s government, making local government a matter for the provinces.

San Francisco passes a zoning law banning Chinese laundries in residential neighborhoods. Similar zoning bylaws and race-based land covenants begin to appear across North America.

The Municipal Incorporation and Municipal Clauses Acts begins an active era of local government formation in BC.

Thomas Adams forms the Town Planning Institute in England. Its ideas spread across Canada through periodicals. The Union of BC Municipalities supports engaging Adams to draft a Town Planning Act for the province.

Frank E. Buck, J.A. Walker, A.G. Smith and others follow Adams’ work and form the Vancouver Branch of the Town Planning Institute. The group drafts and promotes the passage of the Town Planning Act through public speeches and editorials.

Chinese Immigration Act effectively stops Chinese immigration for 24 years. The Act is an example of some of the era’s dominant values.

BC’s first female MLA, Mary Ellen Smith, tables the second version of the Town Planning Act and it passes. Section 10 requires “all persons who might be affected by the proposed by-law the opportunity to be heard” prior to a decision. The Act is praised in planning periodicals.

Vancouver Charter grants Vancouver different powers and procedures than the rest of BC’s local governments.

The Municipal Act of BC replaces the Town Planning Act and contains similar language about public hearings. Court cases throughout the century will expand public hearing procedures beyond what is stated in the legislation.

“Sunshine” Laws spread throughout North America emphasizing open meetings, transparency, and disclosure to prevent corruption in decision-making.

The demolition of Hogan’s Alley is one of many North American government decisions prioritizing public infrastructure over established minority communities.

BC’s Land Title Act amendment bans land covenants based on sex, race, nationality, ancestry, or place of origin. This is an example of law evolving to respond to the values of the era.

Amendments to the Municipal Act include adding the ability to waive public hearings.

The Local Government Act and the Community Charter replaces the Municipal Act. Together they legislate all BC local government authority and procedures, except for Vancouver.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action include several that apply to local governments.

BC passes the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

The Development Approval Process Review Final Report identifies opportunities in a “provincial review of public hearings and consideration of alternative options.”

The Local Government Act amendments clarify public hearings “are not required” for bylaw amendments that align with Official Community Plans (OCP) and give local governments the option to select alternative methods for public notices.

















1998 & 2004










On November 1, a little over a month after the Sept 2023 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention, the British Columbia government proposed legislation that could move to usher in the most transformative housing reforms in a generation. Bill 44, proposes to amend land-use/zoning rules across British Columbia. This would include permanently waiving site-specific public hearings that align with Official Community Plans (OCPs) while requiring that municipal governments update their OCPs every five years with input from the public.

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