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Friday, July 22, 2016

July 22, 2016

 

For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Closure of Courts Was Unconstitutional

 

Paul Davis, Leader of the Official Opposition, said the Ball Liberals did not do their homework before closing the Harbour Grace and Wabush courts, and have reversed their decision only after being forced to do so.

 

Just today, the Official Opposition has obtained documents pertaining to this matter, and are releasing the affidavit of Chief Judge of the Provincial Court Pamela Goulding, which clearly articulated concern that court closures slated for Harbour Grace and Wabush “raises significant and important issues relating to judicial independence, the administration of justice and access to justice”.

 

The statement was filed to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division on July 21, 2016 in response to a lawsuit filed by the Conception-Trinity-Placentia Bay Region Access to Justice Committee.

 

A Supreme Court ruling (R. v. Jordan), in effect, condemns jurisdictions that deny people access to justice created by the kind of decisions the Ball Liberals made to close the courts.

 

Davis said, "The Ball Liberals did not do their‎ homework before closing the court, did not listen to people after making the decision and are being faulted now for having made an unconstitutional decision as put forward by the committee. They had no choice but to admit they were wrong and reverse the court closure decision. It is shameful it took this to get them to act, when the public has been demanding this action for months."

 

Davis referred to statements by the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Pamela Goulding, that the decision was unconstitutional.

 

Judge Goulding's statements filed in an affidavit regarding closure of Harbour Grace court and the Wabush court stated the following:

 

The decision to close the courts “does not comply with the constitutional requirements recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal”.

 

“the closure of the Harbour Grace court will impact the administration of justice for the court, for the policing agencies, and for lawyers and the public”.

 

Chief Judge Goulding also noted that “these court closures are occurring at a time when the Supreme Court of Canada has established a new framework relating to trial delay”, referencing a presumptive ceiling of 18 months for cases in provincial court beyond which the delay is presumed to be unreasonable (R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27)

 

"As Chief Judge, I am particularly concerned with respect to the access to justice implications of these closures”. She also indicated it “reduces access by the public”.

 

Davis said, “The Chief Judge's statements are consistent with the position taken by the Official Opposition and the Conception-Trinity-Placentia Bay Region Access to Justice Committee. This was another decision by the Ball administration that was not well thought out. After months of pressure, a lawsuit and a strong statement by the Chief Judge opposing the decision, they finally took the time to listen, and reverse one of their terrible budget choices.”

 

-30-

 

 

 

Media Contact: Heather MacLean, Director of Communications, Office of the Official Opposition

 

(709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca

 

Backgrounder

 

Affidavit of Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador,

 

The Honourable Pamela Goulding

 

 

 

2016 01G 4238

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NEWFOUNDLAND and LABRADOR

 

TRIAL DIVISION (GENERAL)

 

BETWEEN: CONCEPTION-TRINITY-PLACENTIA BAY REGION

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMITTEE INC.

 

APPLICANT

 

AND: HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN, in Right of Newfoundland

 

and Labrador, as represented by the Attorney General

 

of Newfoundland and Labrador

 

FIRST RESPONDENT

 

AND: THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE PROVINCIAL COURT

 

OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, THE

 

HONOURABLE PAMELA GOULDING

 

SECOND RESPONDENT

 

 

 

SUMMARY OF CURRENT DOCUMENT

 

Court File Number:

 

 

 

2016 01G 4238

 

Date of Filing of

 

Document:

 

July 21, 2016

 

Name of Filing Party or Person:

 

Second Respondent

 

Application to which Document being filed relates:

 

Interlocutory Application and Originating Application

 

Statement of purpose in filing:

 

Affidavit in response to Interlocutory Application and Originating Application

 

Court Sub-File Number:

 

AFFIDAVIT

 

I, Pamela Goulding, of the City of St. John’s, in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, make oath and say as follows:

 

Introduction

 

1. I am the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (the “Court”), the Second Respondent herein. I have knowledge of the matters hereinafter deposed.

 

 

 

2. I was appointed a Judge of the Court on January 30, 2012. I was appointed Chief Judge on September 28, 2015.

 

 

 

3. The Court is funded by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (the “Government”). In the April 2016 budget, the Government withdrew funding for the Harbour Grace court and the Wabush court. The Government directed the closure of the Harbour Grace court and the Wabush court as part of its budget deficit reductions.

 

 

 

4. The process followed with respect to these closures raises significant and important issues relating to judicial independence, the administration of justice and access to justice.

 

 

 

5. Neither the Court nor I as Chief Judge have any independent financial resources for court facilities, court administration or court services. Neither do we have independent financial resources for judicial challenges in the Supreme Court with respect to Government actions respecting the Court.

 

 

 

6. As Chief Judge of the Court, I welcome the opportunity for review provided by this proceeding.

 

 

 

The Court’s Jurisdiction

 

7. The Court is the court of first instance for all criminal and regulatory offences. Trials of the vast majority of such offences are concluded in the Court. The Court also serves as the Youth Court, Traffic Court and Small Claims Court for most civil matters up to $25,000.00. The Court also has concurrent jurisdiction with respect to family law matters of custody, support maintenance, child protection, paternity and adoptions.

 

 

 

Role of the Chief Judge and Court Administration

 

8. The Court is constituted pursuant to the Provincial Court Act, 1991 (the “Act”).

 

 

 

9. The powers of the Chief Judge are set out in section 8 of the Act, which provides as follows:

 

Powers of chief judge

 

8. (1) The chief judge shall

 

(a) have the general supervision and direction of the sittings of the court including the assignment of the judicial duties of the court;

 

(b) have charge at all times of the general policy of the court in judicial matters;

 

(c) assign duties and decide upon requests for exchange of duties among judges;

 

(d) [Rep. by 2008 c45 s1]

 

(e) co-ordinate and apportion the work of judges and, subject to section 14, transfer judges from one district to another when a transfer is reasonable and desirable;

 

(f) make recommendations to the minister respecting all matters affecting the general administration of the court; and

 

(g) perform additional duties that may be prescribed by this Act or the regulations.

 

 

 

(2) [Rep. by 2008 c45 s1]

 

 

 

10. Pursuant to section 13 of the Act, the province is divided into Provincial Court districts. A judge is appointed to a specific district. Section 13(2) of the Act requires a judge to maintain his or her principal residence within an area of 70 kilometers “…from the city or municipality in which the courthouse of the district to which the judge has been appointed is located.” [Emphasis added]

 

 

 

11. The assignment of a judge to a judicial district, the transfer of a judge, and the assignment of judicial duties are functions which engage the Chief Judge under section 8, the Judicial Council under section 18, the individual judge under section 14(1), and, in certain cases, the Minister under section 14(2).

 

 

 

12. Court administration is provided for under Part III of the Act. Section 26(1) provides as follows:

 

Director of Court Services, clerks, etc.

 

26. (1) There shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law, a Director of Court Services, clerks of the court and other officers, clerks and employees that the administration and business of the court requires. [Emphasis added]

 

 

 

13. Ms. Wilma MacInnis is the current Director of Court Services. Her administrative title is Director of Corporate Services.

 

 

 

The Provincial Court Districts

 

14. Pursuant to Regulation O.C. 96-866, the province is divided into 15 provincial court districts as follows: St. John's, Holyrood, Harbour Grace, Placentia, Clarenville, Grand Bank, Gander, Grand Falls, Springdale, Corner Brook, Woody Point, Stephenville, Port aux Basques, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush.

 

 

 

15. Each district currently has a courthouse, with the exception of Holyrood and Springdale. The Holyrood courthouse was closed in or about 1991. The Springdale court operated as a circuit court from Grand Falls-Windsor from 2004 until the end of 2012. The Springdale courthouse was closed at the end of 2012.

 

 

 

16. All of the other districts have resident judges with the exception of Placentia, Woody Point and Port aux Basques. These three districts are served by circuits by judges resident in one of the other districts.

 

 

 

17. The courts in each district are located in buildings owned by the Government, with the exception of the court facilities in St. John’s, Harbour Grace and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The courts in these three districts are in premises leased by the Government.

 

 

 

18. Exhibit “A” to this Affidavit is a summary of cases initiated in each of the districts with resident judges for the fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15.

 

 

 

19. St. John’s is the busiest district with the most resident judges. Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the next busiest district, followed by Corner Brook.

 

 

 

20. Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Harbour Grace and Stephenville have had similar caseloads on average over the past two years.

 

 

 

21. The caseloads in Clarenville, Grand Bank and Wabush are significantly lower.

 

 

 

The Harbour Grace District

 

 

 

22. The Harbour Grace district essentially serves the Conception Bay North/Trinity South area. This is a growing area, especially in the Bay Roberts and surrounding area. Many people now choose to live in this area and commute to work in the St. John’s area, a trend which has increased following the construction of the Veterans Memorial Highway.

 

 

 

23. The Harbour Grace court also serves the Placentia area, with the resident judge in Harbour Grace conducting the circuits to the Placentia district.

 

 

 

24. The Conception Bay North/Trinity South area has RCMP detachments located at Harbour Grace, Bay Roberts and Whitbourne. The RCMP detachment at Placentia also accesses the Harbour Grace district court.

 

The Wabush District

 

 

 

25. The Wabush district provides judicial services to the Labrador City/Wabush area. The Wabush district handles the least number of cases in any year. However, the Labrador City/Wabush area is substantially isolated. The only other district in Labrador is Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The road from Wabush to Happy Valley-Goose Bay is approximately 530 kilometers, with virtually no services along the route. The judge in Wabush also assists at times with providing circuit court services to the Labrador coastal communities. The judge in Wabush also assists with matters in Happy Valley-Goose Bay especially when the resident judges in that district are on circuit to the coast of Labrador.

 

 

 

The Closure Process

 

26. In February 2016, Ms. MacInnis was asked by Mr. Todd Stanley, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice and Public Safety to provide a proposal to reduce the Court budget by 30% as part of the Government’s budget deficit reduction process. I understand that a similar request to identify budget cuts totalling 30% was made to the Government departments.

 

 

 

27. On February 26, 2016, Ms. MacInnis sent a Government Renewal Abstract Template (the “Abstract”) outlining the impact of a thirty percent budget reduction on the Court to Mr. Stanley. [Exhibit “B”]

 

 

 

28. The Abstract outlined the background of the Court, an analysis of the current budget, including the cost of staffing, rent/space and circuit courts, as well as legal, regulatory and legislative considerations, consultations and financial and human resources considerations, some of which stated:

 

 

 

Rent/Space

 

· In addition to salaries, a large portion of the Provincial Court budget is allocated to rent in St. John’s, Harbour Grace and Happy Valley-Goose Bay with other centres being located in government owned facilities. St. John’s is the busiest court with Happy Valley-Goose Bay being the second busiest in the province. Rent for each of these facilities is $957,751, $308,224 and $102,084 respectively on an annual basis. Costs include HST. (It is noteworthy that the St. John’s rental amount is set to increase to $1.1 million post October 2016). Closing these Centres will produce significant cost savings but the impact of same is far reaching in Centres with increasing caseloads and high populations in communities that require an accessible court facility in the area.

 

 

 

Legal, Regulatory and Legislative Considerations

 

 

 

· The Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador is governed by the Constitution of Canada and the rule of law and is an independent, impartial and accessible justice system.

 

· The Court exists to uphold and preserve the fundamental values of society by judging legal disputes, conducting inquiries and providing quality service to the public.

 

 

 

Consultations

 

 

 

· Justice partners such as Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid, RCMP, RNC, Victim Services, etc. would need to be consulted along with other departments such as CYFS as well as other community groups and stakeholders invested in court services to the public.

 

 

 

29. The Abstract stated that “thirty percent reduction of the Provincial Court Budget would necessitate cuts to staffing levels, closure of Court Centres, and elimination of circuit courts; thus impacting court processes, legislated timeframes and access to justice services...”.

 

 

 

30. On February 28, 2016, Mr. Stanley advised Ms. MacInnis that the Abstract provided “isn’t enough” and that he needed “an actual game-plan for how a 30% budget cut could/would be implemented – number of employees, what courthouses, registry hours etc.”. [Exhibit “C”]

 

 

 

31. The Court had a total budget of $11 million in fiscal year 2015-2016. A 30% reduction would require a reduction of $3.3 million. A 30% reduction would require the elimination of approximately 60 of the 74.5 frontline staff positions which in turn would require the closure of court centres in Clarenville, Wabush, Harbour Grace, Grand Falls, Stephenville, Grand Bank, Gander and Goose Bay as well as discontinuing circuit courts, reducing corporate services and reducing court staff in St. John’s from 26 to 17 and in Corner Brook from 9 to 6. [Exhibit “D”]

 

 

 

32. The estimated total savings with respect to the closure of the courts in Harbour Grace and Wabush was:

 

 

 

Closure of Wabush Court Centre $107,000

 

Closure of Harbour Grace $463,500

 

 

 

33. On March 1, 2016, Ms. MacInnis forwarded an e-mail to the Department of Justice and Public Safety (the “Department”) expressing my disagreement with the thirty percent reduction:

 

 

 

I disagree with the proposal for a thirty percent reduction of our Provincial Court Budget.

 

 

 

There can be no question that if such a proposal was implemented it would compromise the fundamental principles of justice for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

[Exhibit “E”]

 

 

 

34. On March 30, 2016, the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Mr. Parsons, accompanied by Mr. Stanley and Mr. John Samms, attended at my office and advised that the courts in Harbour Grace and Wabush were being closed as part of the budget deficit reduction process.

 

 

 

35. On April 14, 2016, the Government released the provincial budget and publically announced that it was closing the courts in Harbour Grace and Wabush. Ms. MacInnis advised the court staff:

 

 

 

I am writing to advise, that as noted in today’s Budget Announcements, Government has determined that the Provincial Court Centre in Wabush and the Provincial Court Centre in Harbour Grace will both close in the next several months. [Emphasis added]

 

[Exhibit “F”]

 

36. As a result of the withdrawal of funding and announced closures of the Harbour Grace court and the Wabush court, Ms. MacInnis and I began the transition process to implement the closures. By May 13, 2016, a tentative plan entitled “Court Closure Decision Points” had been prepared. This document was sent to the Department. [Exhibit “G”]

 

 

 

37. By e-mail of June 15, 2016, Mr. Stanley advised Ms. MacInnis and me that the Department was working to see if there was a way to reverse the decision on the Harbour Grace Courthouse closure. He stated that he had been involved in discussions with the landlord for the Provincial Court leased premises and the RCMP regarding expected savings, but advised that even with these measures taken into account, the net budgetary savings from closing the courthouse was approximately $450,000. He did not believe this would be enough to change the decision and asked if the Provincial Court could come up with any further offset savings that could bring this number down. [Exhibit “H”]

 

 

 

38. By e-mail of June 15, 2016, Ms. MacInnis proposed that $213,000 could be saved during the current fiscal year as follows:

 

- For the interim not filling the judicial vacancy in Grand Falls as a result of the retirement of Judge Whiffen on July 5th.[1]

 

- Not filling the Court Officer 1 in Clarenville (if Hr Grace is to remain open the 3rd staff will not be needed in Clarenville).

 

 

 

Next fiscal year that savings (if positions left unfilled) would be for an entire fiscal year and amount to $267,000.

 

[Exhibit “I”]

 

 

 

39. On June 16, 2016, the Minister advised Ms. MacInnis that: “He said he really wants to work with us re Hr Grace but needs us to submit more to offset the costs.”. [Exhibit “J”]

 

 

 

40. Following a discussion between myself and Ms. MacInnis, Ms. MacInnis advised the Department that the Court had no further cuts to offer without detrimentally affecting court operations throughout the province. This communication was subsequently followed by an e-mail of June 28, 2016, in which Ms. MacInnis advised Mr. Stanley:

 

 

 

From a Provincial Court perspective nothing has changed. As you are aware we did make an offering to offset the costs but the proposal was rejected and we were advised it was not enough and to seek further savings. You’ll recall that we advised that we had nothing else to offer without detrimentally affecting court operations all over the province. Due to same we have no other choice but to carry on as planned per the decision of govt to close the two courts. [emphasis added]

 

[Exhibit “K”]

 

 

 

 

 

41. On June 29, 2016, the Department issued a notice as follows:

 

 

 

As of today, it is still status quo with regards to closure of the Provincial Court location in Harbour Grace. While the department did receive a proposal from the Town of Harbour Grace related to the suggested purchase of the building, it has not been accepted as the costs associated with the building are only part of the costs savings identified. To date, the Department of Justice and Public Safety has not been presented with a proposal identifying the level of costs savings necessary for consideration to be given to keeping the court location open.

 

[Exhibit “L”]

 

 

 

42. By e-mail of June 30, 2016, Mr. Stanley advised as follows:

 

 

 

I am aware that the dissemination relating to the Provincial Court closures for Harbour Grace and Wabush has been sporadic to this point. This has been in part due to ongoing discussions and re-evaluations of the basis for the decisions and the exploration of possible options to avoid the closures. This process was successful for the originally-planned Supreme Court closures in Grand Bank and Grand Falls-Windsor. However, we have been unable to rectify the issues relating to the Harbour Grace and Wabush locations.

 

 

 

As a result I wanted to write to confirm that, notwithstanding recent media reports to the contrary, the Provincial Court locations at Wabush and Harbour Grace are still planned to close at the end of July. Employees as (sic) these locations have received their layoff notices, and the Provincial court staff are working to transition dockets and records.

 

[Exhibit “M”]

 

 

 

43. On or about July 4, 2016, the Department gave 30 days notice to the landlord terminating the lease of the Court premises at the Cyril Babb building in Harbour Grace. [Exhibit “N”]

 

 

 

44. On July 8, 2016, the Court’s judges and staff were advised that the Department would proceed with the closure of both the Harbour Grace and Wabush courthouses on July 29, 2016:

 

 

 

As a result, matters or services that would traditionally have been offered in the Harbour Grace site will be transferred to either the St. John’s or Clarenville Provincial Courts; depending on the community of residence. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has 4 detachments whose boundaries fall within the jurisdiction of the Harbour Grace Court; Harbour Grace, Bay Roberts, Whitbourne and Placentia. As a result of the court closure, matters for the Harbour Grace and Bay Roberts RCMP offices will transfer to St. John’s Provincial Court and the matters for Whitbourne and Placentia will be transferred to Clarenville Provincial Court. Any community being covered by the respective RCMP detachment would go to that assigned court for any of their court related needs....

 

 

 

The Placentia circuit will be maintained by the Clarenville Court.

 

[Exhibit “O”]

 

 

 

45. On July 8, 2016, a Provincial Court Closure Communication: Harbour Grace was prepared:

 

 

 

The Provincial Court in Harbour Grace is slated to close to the public July 29, 2016.

 

 

 

As a result, matters or services that would traditionally have been offered in that court site will be transferred to either the St. John’s or Clarenville Provincial Courts; depending on the community of residence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the court building will close on July 29th, due to the nature of court processes, here are important dates/information to be mindful of in relation to court-related services for the area:

 

 

 

New Arrests: Will be dealt with in Harbour Grace up to and including July 28, 2016. As of the end of day on July 29, 2016 all arrests will be referred to Clarenville and St. John’s

 

 

 

Previously scheduled trials: Matters currently scheduled will be transferred to the new court centre. Contact will be made with parties/counsel to determine if they are able to proceed on the same date in the new court centre. If changes are required by either parties/counsel or the Court, matters will be called early to set new dates.

 

 

 

Criminal matters: The last date for new Informations to be filed in Harbour Grace by the Enforcement Agencies is July 8, 2016. As of July 4, 2016 any new matters with summons dates after July 29, 2016 will be registered as St. John’s or Clarenville files and forwarded there. As of July 11, 2016 documents for new files are to be sent to Clarenville and St. John’s for processing.

 

 

 

Summary Offence Tickets: Tickets can be dropped off in Harbour Grace up to and including July 29, 2016. As of July 4, 2016 contested tickets will be registered as St. John’s or Clarenville files. Dates will be scheduled in the respective Court’s calendar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Claims: As of July 11, 2016 all matters will be referred to St. John’s and Clarenville for processing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs) – EPOs will be processed in Harbour Grace until closing. EPOs are currently made on an ex parte basis... 24 hours a day, seven days a week all over the province (In areas where there are Provincial Courts, one can apply in person during regular court hours without a lawyer or they can go to their nearest police station). The EPO process still allows for access to justice services for people residing in areas where there is no court and after hours as police and judges are still accessible at all times.

 

[Exhibit “P”]

 

 

 

46. A similar Provincial Court Closure Communication: Wabush was also prepared:

 

 

 

Although the court building will close on July 29, 2016, due to the nature of the court processes, here are some important dates/information to be mindful of in relation to court-related services for the area:

 

 

 

New Arrests: Will be dealt with in Wabush up to and including July 28, 2016. As of July 29, 2016 all arrests will be referred to Corner Brook.

 

Previously scheduled trials: Matters currently scheduled will be maintained and circuit court scheduled to accommodate those dates. Should scheduling changes be required, contact will be made with parties/counsel matters to call matters early to set new dates.

 

Criminal matters: The last date for new Informations to be filed in Wabush by the respective Enforcement Agencies is July 8, 2016. As of July 4, 2016 any new matters with summons dates after July 29, 2016 will be registered as Corner Brook files. Dates will be scheduled in the circuit court calendar.

 

 

 

Summary Offence Tickets (SOT): Tickets can be filed with the Wabush Court up to and including July 29, 2016. As of July 4, 2016 contested tickets will be registered as Corner Brook files. Dates will be scheduled in the circuit court calendar.

 

 

 

Small Claims: As of July 8th all matters will be handled in Corner Brook.

 

 

 

Family files: As of July 8th, all matters will be handled in Corner Brook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs)–EPOs will be processed in Wabush until closing. EPOs are currently made on an ex parte basis... 24 hours a day, seven days a week all over the province. (In areas where there are Provincial Courts, one can apply in person during regular court hours without a lawyer or they can go to their nearest police station). The EPO process still allows for access to justice services for people residing in areas where there is no court and after hours as police and judges are still accessible at all times.

 

[Exhibit “Q”]

 

 

 

47. On July 8, 2016, Judge Wynne Anne Trahey, the resident judge in Wabush, prepared a memorandum and schedules reviewing the Department’s estimate of cost savings by closing the Wabush court and provided commentary and alternate proposals for cost savings. Judge Trahey’s memorandum was provided to Mr. Stanley on July 8, 2016. [Exhibit “R”]

 

 

 

48. Given the role of the Provincial Court with respect to family law matters, on July 14, 2016, Ms. MacInnis advised Mr. Stanley:

 

 

 

Just wanted to “flag” this as well as we are sending out communications re Hr Grace and need to add something re family. Currently it says “info to follow” but we are getting asked questions by CYFS and others re the plan and we are only 2 weeks out now from closure.

 

 

 

As per my voice mail message the Chief is not in agreement with using the language of “encouraging” people to go to the family division but instead need to be directed there as their only option as we are not equipped to deal with family matters here at PC. Judge Brazil is not seized with any family matters from Hr Grace.

 

[Exhibit “S”]

 

 

 

Judicial Independence, the Administration of Justice and Access to Justice

 

49. As I noted in the Introduction to this affidavit, this matter raises significant and important issues relating to judicial independence, the administration of justice and access to justice. The decisions to close the Harbour Grace court and the Wabush court were made by Government as part of its budgetary deficit reduction process. The closures were not initiated by me as Chief Judge nor was the Judicial Council consulted with respect to such closures.

 

 

 

50. Based upon my own understanding as well as advice from counsel, I do verily believe that the process which has been followed with respect to the closures of the Harbour Grace district court and the Wabush district court does not comply with the constitutional requirements recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal. Nor does the process appear to comply with a proper interpretation of the statutory provisions contained in the Act, interpreted in accordance with the constitutional requirements. My counsel wrote to counsel for the Government by letter of July 18, 2016. [Exhibit “T”]

 

 

 

51. The closure of the Harbour Grace court will impact the administration of justice for the Court, for the policing agencies, and for lawyers and the public. Cases previously handled in the Harbour Grace court will be handled in the St. John’s court with the exception of family cases or in the Clarenville court. The resident judge in Harbour Grace will be relocated to St. John’s. The Harbour Grace court will close completely; there will be no circuits to Harbour Grace since there will be no courtroom. The Placentia circuits will be continued from Clarenville, increasing the distance and time required by the judge conducting the circuits. While St. John’s will have one additional judge, it will not have additional court facilities or court staff.

 

 

 

52. The closure will also impact the RCMP in the Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace, Whitbourne and Placentia detachments. Police officers will now be required to attend court in St. John’s or Clarenville, as appropriate. This will result in additional travel time and reduced police availability in the detachment areas.

 

 

 

53. Lawyers and the public will also be affected since they will have to attend court in St. John’s or Clarenville, resulting in additional cost and additional time.

 

 

 

54. The conversion of the Wabush court to a circuit court will also impact the administration of justice. While the court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay will have one additional judge, it will not have other additional resources. Persons requiring access to justice in the Labrador City/Wabush area will either have to await the circuit court in Wabush or travel to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

 

 

 

55. These court closures are occurring at a time when the Supreme Court of Canada has established a new framework relating to trial delay. There is now a presumptive ceiling of 18 months for cases tried in provincial court beyond which the delay is presumed to be unreasonable: R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27

 

 

 

56. As Chief Judge, I am particularly concerned with respect to the access to justice implications of these closures. Access to justice requires reasonable proximity, especially for those individuals of lesser financial means. Requiring members of the public in the Harbour Grace area to access courts in St. John’s inevitably reduces access by the public. For some individuals of limited means and without access to transportation, it will preclude access to justice. Similarly, the reduction of the Wabush court to a circuit court will adversely impact access to justice in the Labrador City/Wabush area.

 

 

 

Concluding Comments

 

57. As noted in the Introduction to this affidavit, I welcome this review by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

 

 

58. This Affidavit is sworn in response to the Originating and Interlocutory Applications filed in this matter.

 

 

 

SWORN before me at St. John’s, in the

 

Province of Newfoundland and Labrador,

 

this 20th day of July, 2016.

 

 

 

PAMELA GOULDING

 

[1] At the time, we did not understand that Judge Whiffen’s position was already not funded.

 

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