Good news for the Alberta justice system is coming from an unexpected but welcome source, the small city of Red Deer.
Red Deer’s existing courthouse was built in the 1980’s and since that time, the city of Red Deer has almost doubled its population, such growth extending to the surrounding area as well. This has lent itself to the space shortage in meeting the region’s justice needs, an issue that has only become more critical for an unfortunate length of time. Central Albertans have been requesting improvements to Red Deer’s justice facilities for several years and the recent budget news has now answered those requests.
While the project is still in the planning phase, it has been announced by the Province that at least $97 million will be allocated for the new facility over the next four years. The new center will increase the number of courtrooms in Central Alberta from seven to twelve, as well as create a new wing for Resolution Services, providing dispute resolution, civil and family mediation, arbitration, and other resolution alternatives to court. Specific services will also include, civil, criminal, traffic, family and youth courts; justice related supports, including Crown and barrister assistance; and services for external groups like probation workers, Indigenous court workers, Legal Aid representatives, counselling staff and Elizabeth Fry/John Howard employees. While the twelve new court rooms will serve both Provincial and Queen’s Bench courts, it will also have the potential to expand from twelve courtrooms to sixteen in the future. The facility will also include enhanced security measures that will separate prisoner, public and judicial/staff circulation.
The availability of more courtrooms lends aid to the crucial need for increased court capacity in Red Deer as well as Central Alberta, helping ensure that charges are upheld and assisting city enforcement along with community safety. Such an investment in Central Alberta’s public infrastructure and justice system will not only improve Albertan’s access to justice services, it will also serve to stimulate economic activity and create new jobs.
The next steps for this long awaited government investment include securing the land and beginning design work so that a construction schedule may be planned.