Inauguration of a new, more modern courthouse in Toronto
The 17-storey building is not always unanimous, however, because of certain concerns it raises.
The new courthouse is located at 10 Armory Street just north of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the Superior Court of Justice, which are actually aligned on the same axis.
The new Toronto courthouse was inaugurated with great fanfare on Tuesday, in the presence of the Attorney General of Ontario and the chief justices of the various courts of the province. It will soon bring together the courts of Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, those of College Park and the old Town Hall, and the juvenile court on Jarvis Street. The total bill is $956.4 million.
The 17-story concrete, glass and quartz building is the second tallest court in Canada. Emphasis has been placed on transparency, thanks to the large windows that let in plenty of light from floor to ceiling.
You can even see Lake Ontario from the 9th floor, at the end of York Street, between two downtown skyscrapers.
Consolidation of Toronto courts downtown is not unanimous
The court will be reserved for the Toronto Court of Justice Ontario. All criminal cases will be heard there and special services will be offered for Aboriginal people, minors and individuals who suffer from drug addiction or mental health problems.
The paintings on the column that houses the elevators in the courthouse atrium, where yellow is the only color used in the building.
The modern and spacious building has 73 state-of-the-art courtrooms with giant screens, removable lecterns, interpretation services and digital displays to orient the audience.
The building is also suitable for people with reduced mobility, the blind and the hearing impaired. It has a reception center on the ground floor to refer people.
The signs are in both official languages and in Braille. The media have their own room to work in.
A conventional courtroom with the glassed-in defendant's box on the left.
Special interest has been given to Aboriginal culture. For example, two courtrooms have been created to serve indigenous defendants and their families.
In these specialized courts, the judge sits with the Crown prosecutor, the defense lawyer and the accused around a circular table.
The magistrate is therefore no longer on a promontory, as in a conventional courtroom, to respect a more community spirit.
The colors of the circle of the table signify the cardinal points important to the Native people. It is even possible to organize a traditional purification ceremony there before the start of the audiences.
One of two courtrooms for Aboriginal defendants. The panels separate the platform on which the judges are normally seated, so that everyone is around the same table. The registrar or stenographer sits at the desk on the right outside the circle.
Architect Amaury Greig says his firm was keen to add elements of Indigenous culture in the composition of the building in the light of the archaeological excavations at the beginning of the excavation works.
Mr. Greig adds that his team also wanted to remember the presence of First Nations people in the historic Ward district of Toronto when European settlers arrived.
Giant signs outside the courthouse explain the historic site on which the new courthouse was built.
We have also integrated in partnership with the indigenous groups an Indigenous Learning Center which is 300 m2 on the ground floor of the building which will be a fundamental space to improve the links between justice and the indigenous experience in the Canada, he explains.
Amaury Greig is one of architects who designed the new Toronto courthouse.
The court is not unanimous, however. Concerns that persisted 18 months ago during construction remain.
Staff members, who worked in the courts on the outskirts of the metropolis, will now have to go morning and evening to the city center at the height of rush hour, by car or by public transport.< /p>
There are also security concerns, as the building houses juvenile defendants and adult defendants.
Some fear that the courthouse will attract street gangs to the same place, which would come, for example, to attend hearings of some of their members.
The Attorney General of Ontario, Doug Downey.
Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, however, dismissed such fears out of hand. He assures that the new court is very safe.
Juveniles will be isolated from adults on a single floor and separate corridors will be dedicated to conveying defendants to courtrooms, away from public view in waiting areas, he says.
Mr. Downey points out that the main entrance has an extensive security feature to search the bags of members of the public as seen in airports.
Finally, the Attorney General predicts that the modernization of the court will make it possible to grant better access to justice and to improve administrative procedures thanks to the bringing together of numerous judicial services under one roof.
The government ensures that the security system at the entrance to the new courthouse is modern and efficient.
Nearly 8,000 government employees will work there. However, the Minister acknowledges that he was not able to bring all the civil servants there. Some of them will therefore continue to work in offices downtown.
The Ontario Prosecutors' Association thinks the Ford government made a mistake and should have moved only the downtown courts (College Park, L' former Hôtel-de-Ville and the courthouse on rue Jarvis).
The three original courts of Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke, on the other hand, should have remained in the suburbs to better serve the public, explains its president Betty Vavougios.
Ms. Vavougios thinks the building is nonetheless a beautiful place that was long overdue in the face of dire need downtown, because the three downtown courts had become dilapidated.
The public waiting areas on each floor outside the courtrooms are spacious and well lit.
Only Etobicoke Perimeter Court will remain open. It will be renovated, but it will change its vocation to become the new Toronto Regional Center for adult bail.
Bail hearings will, however, continue to be offered virtually in the new courthouse, but the Attorney General says there was a need to retain in-person hearings .
The opening of the new court, owned by the province, which was scheduled for spring 2022, had been postponed due in particular to the pandemic.
The first cases will begin to be heard there from mid-March 2023.
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