Alberta advances courtroom infrastructure projects
Officials say the projects will improve accessibility and advance cases faster.
The Red Deer Justice Centre project is nearly finished. – Province of Alberta
Alberta is getting its court infrastructure in order with a series of construction projects.
Red Deer is getting a new building with additional courtrooms while Brooks, Hinton and Peace River will see renovations to the existing courthouses to make them more user-friendly and to provide updated security, privacy and accessibility features.
Red Deer Justice Centre
With an investment of more than $200 million, construction of the new Red Deer Justice Centre is nearing completion. Once finished, it will have 12 courtrooms ready for use, an increase from eight at the current facility. This will allow more cases to be heard at one time so matters can proceed faster. A $200,000 investment in Budget 2023 will support a planning study to build out four additional courtrooms, which, when complete, will bring the total number of courtrooms to 16.
The justice centre will also have spaces for people taking alternative approaches to the traditional courtroom trial process, with three new suites for judicial dispute resolution services, a new Indigenous courtroom with dedicated venting for smudging purposes, and a dedicated suite for alternative dispute resolution services such as family mediation and civil mediation.
Albertans continue to access court services at the existing Red Deer courthouse while the new centre is being built.
“Upgrading our province’s courthouses gives Albertans a more secure and comfortable experience when they need to visit court. By building a new justice centre in Red Deer, we are taking steps to increase capacity in the justice system to keep up with demand,” said Mickey Amery, minister of justice and attorney general
The upgraded Brooks courthouse is fully operational, as renovations were completed in August.
A $4.6-million investment by Alberta’s government enabled many improvements to the courthouse, including a new public waiting area, vulnerable witness room, holding cells, prisoner dock and other updates. Alberta’s government is also investing in upgrades to courtroom audiovisual equipment at the Brooks courthouse.
Alberta is contributing $2.7 million for accessibility improvements to the Hinton courthouse. Improvements include wider entrances and more accessible handicap buttons at the main entrance and public washrooms, and more space at security screening areas. Renovations began in July and are expected to be complete by the end of the year. In the meantime, Albertans are accessing court services at the nearby Pembina Place building.
Peace River courthouse
To increase accessibility, Alberta is providing $250,000 for a barrier-free access project at the courthouse in Peace River. Operations are expected to continue without disruption during renovations, which will begin next month.
“The Canadian Bar Association – Alberta Branch has long been calling for upgrades to Alberta’s court infrastructure through our Agenda for Justice, including improving courtroom technology to make virtual appearances more widely available, improving physical accessibility to ensure that all Albertans can safely access court facilities, and improving capacity to address our province’s growing population,” said Kyle Kawanami, president, Canadian Bar Association – Alberta Branch. “We are pleased to see these improvements underway, and look forward to continued investments in Alberta’s court infrastructure and modernization.”