Why Council Records Matter

In celebration of Canada Day, the Peel Archives is highlighting a group of records whose very existence speaks to our cherished status as a free and democratic country: municipal council records. Peel’s citizens are actively encouraged to come in to review these fascinating and informative records!

1897, 1919, 1959, 1987

County of Peel and Region of Peel councils from 1897, 1919, 1959, and 1987.

What are they?

The Peel Archives is the official archival repository for the council and committee records of the Region of Peel, as well as the area municipalities of Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon.


Peel County Council Chambers, 1957. (PAMA Region of Peel photograph collection)

The councils themselves are composed of elected representatives, now known as councillors, who meet regularly to discuss, debate, and make decisions concerning the administration and governance of their respective municipalities.

To that end, each council assigns work to various committees, allowing councillors on those committees to review in detail specific topics or issues. Committee mandates and composition differ by municipality, but most councils tend to establish a core set of committees, including administration-finance, planning, public works, and health/human services.

Ad-hoc and special committees will also often be struck in order to look into specific or time sensitive issues, including, among other things, strategic planning, waste management, and emergency planning. The records generated by  councils and their committees contain a range of record types, including  meeting agendas and minutes,  reports, submissions to council (including petitions and proposals), and correspondence.   The Clerk of each municipality manages these records before they are transferred to the Archives.

What do they tell us?

These records document the activities and decisions of area councils and their respective committees.  Preserving and making these records available to the public ensures that citizens are able to exercise their democratic right to learn about and scrutinize the actions of the government.

Township of Caledon council minutes page, January 12, 1931

Excerpt from Caledon council minutes, 1931. (PAMA, RG 10)

Having these records in the archives allows the public to:

  • Read about the proceedings at any given council or committee meeting, including any passed resolutions or bylaws (there will be more on municipal bylaws in a future blog post)
  • Review correspondence between council and private citizens, local businesses, organizations, and other governments (at the municipal, provincial and federal levels)
  • Determine various politicians’ attendance records and voting choices at council and committee meetings
  • Obtain detailed staff or committee reports dealing with a wide variety of topics and issues brought before council

Case study: Mississauga train derailment, 1979

On November 10, 1979 a freight train carrying poisonous and explosive chemicals derailed near the intersection of Mavis Road and Dundas Street in the City of Mississauga. What followed was at the time the lPN2009_01722argest peacetime evacuation in North American history. Reports found among the Peel council records shed light on the ways in which the City of Mississauga, the Region of Peel, and the Province of Ontario worked together in the aftermath of the derailment to ensure that the site was thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated.

A December 1979 report documents the Region of Peel’s point-by-point response to the planned rehabilitation of the derailment site. It also includes a map of all of the soil sites tested by the Ministry of the Environment.


Above and below: excerpts from a 1979 report on the derailment. A map shows where soil samples from the chemically affected site were taken. A page from a regional debate on where to dispose of contaminated soil shows the democratic process in action. (PAMA, RG 13)


What should a researcher know about these records?

  • The Peel Archives holds the surviving council records of all of the area municipalities and their predecessors. In 1973 there were 11 incorporated municipalities in the area overseen by their own councils; by 1974 they had been amalgamated into four – the Region of Peel, the City of Mississauga, the City of Brampton, and the Town of Caledon.
  • Village of Brampton council minutes page, 1857

    Excerpt from Brampton council minutes, 1853. (PAMA, RG 5)

    Some council records are available on microfilm and can therefore be scanned to a USB disk by researchers (the Reading Room is equipped with two digital microfilm scanners).

  • Typed versions of the Region of Peel council minutes are available through the Region of Peel’s website. The original minutes and all of the supporting records are kept in archival storage.
  • The Peel Archives adheres to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). This legislation is designed to facilitate the widest possible public access to government records, while also ensuring that any personal or sensitive information is protected. Generally speaking, council and committee records tend to be open with no restrictions. However, if any personal or sensitive third party information is found during processing, the file(s) will need to be reviewed by an archivist before they can be released.

posted by Kyle Neill, Senior Archivist

5 responses to “Why Council Records Matter

  1. Pingback: Seven Statements about Archives: Best of the Blog 2016 | Archives @ PAMA·

  2. Pingback: Why BYLAWS Matter | Archives @ PAMA·

  3. Pingback: The creation of the County of Peel, 1851-1867 | Archives @ PAMA·

  4. Pingback: What do archivists keep (or not)? | Archives @ PAMA·

  5. Pingback: Researching the “woodland world”: Historic vegetation in Peel | Archives @ PAMA·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s