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Ken Kelertas, president, Halton County Law Association and director of legal services and legal counsel for the Halton Region Police Service

Milton Courthouse’s lingering mould issues prompt temporary move to Burlington Convention Centre

Monday, May 31, 2021 @ 5:18 AM | By John Schofield


Immobilized for months by mould in the Milton, Ont., courthouse, the province is temporarily moving court operations in that city of 110,000 to a convention centre and hotel down the road in Burlington.

The temporary facility will be operational by May 31. But the result, says the past president of the Halton County Law Association (HCLA), is frustration among many members of the local bar and a lingering access-to-justice problem in one of Canada’s fastest growing regions.

 HCLA president Ken Kelertas

Ken Kelertas, director of legal services and legal counsel for the Halton Region Police Service

HCLA past president Ken Kelertas, who is director of legal services and legal counsel for the Halton Region Police Service, said the temporary courthouse is spacious, but has limited parking, is not anywhere near public transit and is not completely wheelchair accessible.

“This raises some red flags with respect to access to justice in Halton,” he told The Lawyer’s Daily in an e-mail, “while the government contemplates its options regarding the future of the Milton and Burlington courthouses.”

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice announced the immediate suspension of all in-person proceedings at the Milton Courthouse on Oct. 15, 2020, due to a recurrence of mould, which has been a long-standing problem in the building.

In May 2020, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General announced the cancellation of the state-of-the-art, seven-storey, 25-courtroom Halton Region Consolidated Courthouse, which would have replaced the aging courthouses in both Milton and Burlington at an estimated cost of between $200 million and $499 million. Officially announced in 2017, it was expected to open in late 2023 or early 2024.

Kelertas said the Ministry’s estimate that the mould remediation work in Milton will be finished by the fall is a “pipe dream” considering the delays in getting the work started.

“More likely than not,” he said, “the temporary courthouse will be operating well into 2022.

“In the interim,” he added, “the bar in Halton has been provided with absolutely no information regarding any concrete plans to renovate or expand the Milton courthouse.”

And some members of the local bar fear Halton Region’s courthouse woes could get worse, said Kelertas. Burlington’s former Provincial Offences Act (POA) courthouse, which housed POA court administration and two courtrooms on the same property as Burlington’s main courthouse, was recently put up for lease, he noted.

Despite the government’s previous statements about renovating Burlington’s courthouse, said Kelertas, the “for lease” sign “tells me that there is no immediate plan in place to do anything to improve the Burlington Courthouse.

“To echo what many others have said before,” he added, “the Milton courthouse should be levelled, the Burlington courthouse should be abandoned, and a new consolidated courthouse should be built in Halton as soon as possible. Only then can there be a true transformation of the justice system in Halton.”

Kelertas said a recent tour of the temporary facility revealed there will be one out-of-custody criminal courtroom and some virtual hearing suites to allow court staff to run remote virtual hearings.

Located at 1120 Burloak Dr., the Burlington Convention Centre location has also been fitted with counters for in-person filings. The convention centre and the adjacent Marriott hotel also have office space for the Halton Crown, the Halton Police court bureau, Legal Aid, the HCLA, victims’ services and other agencies.

Kelertas said he’s been told that the Ministry intends to continue running almost all civil and family hearings virtually, with in-custody Ontario Court of Justice criminal matters being heard exclusively at the Burlington Courthouse on Plains Road. Superior Court jury trials will have to be held in Brampton or elsewhere.

Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, said in an e-mail to The Lawyer’s Daily that the Ontario government is still planning to undertake mould remediation work and other immediate infrastructure improvements in both Milton and Burlington and will introduce “user-focused design, technology and processes at the courthouses.”

“This will include visual and physical enhancements, as well as video-enabled courtrooms with flexible layouts,” he said. “In addition to these investments … other future renewal and refurbishment projects at Milton courthouse include security upgrades and a new front entrance.”

The mould-remediation work in Milton will be completed by late fall 2021, said Gray. He did not provide a timeline for the other improvements.

Gray confirmed that Superior Court of Justice hearings that require in-person attendance, whether in-custody or out-of-custody, will be scheduled at the Brampton Courthouse. In addition, he said, Ontario Court of Justice hearings that require an in-custody appearance will be scheduled at the Brampton Courthouse or the Burlington Courthouse. And out-of-custody matters that require an in-person appearance will be scheduled at the Brampton Courthouse, the Burlington Courthouse or the Burlington Convention Centre, depending on courtroom availability.

He said civil and family matters that require an in-person appearance will also be scheduled at the Brampton Courthouse, the Burlington Courthouse or the Burlington Convention Centre, depending on courtroom availability. Meanwhile, he added, small claims court, finance, enforcement and the intake court will move into the Burlington Courthouse while the remediation in Milton is being completed.

“Local bargaining agents have been notified,” said Gray. “The mayors of Milton, Burlington and Oakville, local MPs and MPPs will be notified. Courthouse stakeholders will receive information and updates through a regular project bulletin.”