File photo by ADVOCATE STAFF Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley provided some details about the Red Deer Justice Centre at a press conference outside the Red Deer Courthouse with Premier Rachel Notley, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and other dignitaries.

Let’s Talk: Courthouse

Thank you for the opportunity to submit a monthly column for the Red Deer Advocate. Over the course of the year, I hope to address various issues the citizens of Red Deer raise with city council throughout our conversations in the community.

You will have likely heard by now that the provincial government publicly committed to move forward on a new Justice Centre for Red Deer in the 2017 provincial budget. Courthouse infrastructure is the decision-making jurisdiction of the provincial government, and their plan is twelve courtrooms and it will be approximately three to four years before construction is complete.

There were many in our community who welcomed the news, but there were also many in our community who challenged the province’s decision by questioning why they were investing in courthouse and not hospital infrastructure. In response to this community sentiment, I thought I would address from the municipality’s perspective strong reasons for why this decision is critical for the safety of all Red Deerians.

In 2016, there was a Supreme Court ruling called the “Jordan Decision,” which established precedent definition for what constitutes “timely” access to justice under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The importance of this Supreme Court ruling cannot be underestimated. Essentially, Jordan means that if cases are not heard within the prescribed timeline, a “Jordan application” could come forward and the charges would be “stayed,” or in general terms, the case would be “thrown out” of court.

Red Deerians have consistently identified crime and public safety as a high priority for leaders to address, and “Jordan” has proven to be a game changer. For all of our local police efforts in enforcing illegal activity, it would be counterproductive to have strong cases thrown out of court because of delays to justice. Expanded courthouse capacity is therefore in the public safety interests of: victims of crime, the general public by upholding the integrity of the justice system, law enforcement morale in ensuring that charges are upheld in court, and ensuring the kids and families awaiting court decision do not experience potentially traumatic delays.

The community of Red Deer began formal advocacy for expanded courthouse about 10 years ago (a report identified the need 25 years ago), so this announcement is a long-awaited victory for the safety of all in our community.

The city realizes that this victory for our region was coupled with strong support for the need for expanded health infrastructure for Red Deer. The city has identified for the Premier, Minister of Health and our local MLAs our community’s expressed need for investment in the Red Deer Regional Hospital. I have no doubt that the next focus for our community in pursuing provincial investment in Red Deer will be expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. It was our community’s democratic insistence that we become a community of justice that secured this critical investment and it will be democratic insistence that will secure infrastructure and service expansion at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre as well.

I hope this helps to answer some of your questions until next month. As always, council thanks you for the ongoing opportunity to represent you. We look forward to seeing you all in the near future and hearing about what is important to citizens in our community.

Until next time …

Mayor Tara Veer

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