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New courthouse opens in Alberta

Friday, November 03, 2017 @ 1:10 PM | By Carolyn Gruske


Fort Vermilion, Alta., is now home to a new courthouse filled with modern technology.

Court

New courthouse in Fort Vermilion, Alta.

Acting as the Fort Vermilion circuit court location of the provincial court of Alberta, the new facility replaces a smaller, outdated, 30-year-old building. In addition to offering much more space (160 square metres compared to 604 square metres), the new building has improved security features, including closed-circuit television. It was also built with the needs of the Indigenous community in mind, and as such, it can be used for smudging ceremonies.

It cost $5 million to build, and is part of a $70 million courthouse renewal project to upgrade 16 court facilities across the province, including in First Nation communities.

“We are committed to improving access to justice for all Albertans. The new courthouse in Fort Vermilion addresses a longstanding need for an improved court facility for residents and surrounding Indigenous communities,” said Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley.

Criminal and youth hearings are held in Fort Vermilion two days per month, with judges, Crown prosecutors and court staff travelling to the community from larger urban centres. The court also serves the communities of Fox Lake, Tallcree First Nation, Dene Tha’ First Nation, Beaver First Nation and the Little Red River Cree Nation. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, there were 394 cases and 1,041 charges commenced in Fort Vermilion. Over the same time period, there were 178 trials scheduled and 107 trials heard.

“It is my hope that this courthouse will serve as a focal point for the provincial court to better connect with and serve the northern and Indigenous communites," said provincial court Chief Judge Terrence J. Matchett.

The court earned praise from members of Alberta’s Indigenous community, including Rupert Meneen, chief of the Tallcree Tribal government.

“We are impressed with this new facility in Fort Vermilion. It demonstrates the government of Alberta’s commitment to improving safety and security for northern communities and we applaud the government’s efforts to address service deficiencies in this time of fiscal restraint. We see this facility as an opportunity for Albertans to evaluate our approach to the administration of justice and addressing the over-representation of First Nations in the criminal justice system,” he said.