EDMONTON — More than five years after securing land for a new courthouse, the City of Red Deer says it is looking for commitment from the provincial government to deal with increasing pressures at the city’s existing building.
A June letter from the Red Deer mayor’s office to Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley congratulated her on her appointment, and called attention to the problem.
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“We understand that the department has completed its study of court house needs in Alberta and some preliminary site evaluation,” the letter reads. “In that study we understand Red Deer is near the top of the list requiring a new or expanded court house.”
The letter explained a site had been held downtown, close to the Remand Centre, which includes the currently vacant former RCMP headquarters. The mayor’s letter said minimal maintenance had been done to make sure it’s available for future relocation, but said there have been significant carrying costs as a result.
“We appreciate that there may not be certainty around the capital commitment or definitive date for a new court house in Red Deer, but the government’s intent regarding securing this site is what is most important to us at this time.”
Red Deer’s current courthouse is bursting at the seams and has been for years. In March 2014, the city’s traffic court – which services all of central Alberta – was moved to a nearby hotel in hopes of alleviating some of the pressure. But in an April 2015 interview, lawyers said the pressure hadn’t let up.
“In fact, I think over the last year things have gotten worse,” Chris Rickards with the Central Alberta Bar Society said.
WATCH: Lawyers, city weigh in on pressure at Red Deer courthouse
Earlier this month, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the overcrowding has led to a delay in justice being served.
“Our ultimate concern is we recognize that the new government needed to find its legs in order to make a decision on this request before them, but ultimately we are concerned about outcomes for justice, for Red Deerians and the region that we serve,” Veer said.
“Our concern is that justice delayed ultimately could be justice denied if dockets are backed up too far.”
In a statement to Global News Tuesday, Ganley said the province is aware of the capacity pressures within the Red Deer courthouse.
“Renovations are underway to address the current short-term needs of the facility. We are reviewing the need for new courthouse construction, but a final decision has not been made. The project will be evaluated alongside other critical infrastructure projects such as schools and hospitals. Our government is committed to ensuring Albertans have access to justice, and that includes access to court facilities,” Ganley said.
Veer said the former PC government indicated the report into courthouse needs would be released in October. The report has yet to be released by the NDP government.