Petition to fight Minden court move
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | April 13, 2017|
Local reaction that moving court from Minden to Lindsay is out of order continues with MPP Laurie Scott launching a petition against the move.
She was joined Friday by County Warden Brent Devolin and Minden Hills Coun. Jeanne Anthon at the Minden courthouse, which houses not only provincial offences – which is the court being moved but criminal and small claims court, too.
The petition is addressed to the Ministry of the Attorney General.
It was announced last month that the provincial offences court will be relocated to Lindsay, between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, to allow more justices of the peace (JPs) to be hired and trained.
“The Wynne government made the decision to close this court without any consultation with the County of Haliburton,” Scott said, adding it failed to act to fill the positions “and rural Ontario is again getting the short end of the stick.”
Scott is worried about reduced access to justice for many people in the county. She said there are only 33 JPs, when there should be 48 and claims this resulted in 1,550 charges in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton not receiving a court date in 2016 so “criminals are getting off scot-free because of the government’s mismanagement.”
She said the move “has far-reaching consequences. Not only do many residents not have the means of travelling to Lindsay, but the closure of the court in Minden will also hurt the local economy.”
Devolin said on court day, the municipal parking lot is packed. “You’d think there’s a fair going on. They come and go, buy their Timmies, do whatever.”
Scott said that “For one day a month, a JP can be up in Minden” and Devolin said, “whether one JP is here or in Lindsay is irrelevant. It makes me ask some more questions. It is, I suspect, more than that.”
Scott said with only five weeks until the provincial legislature breaks, people have to quickly sign the petitions so she can read them out and talk to the minister.
She and Devolin hope for a similar outcome to the reversal of the announced closing of the ServiceOntario office in Minden.
However, Devolin is skeptical. He said 15 vacancies out of 48 positions “didn’t happen overnight.” He said it may be a case of creating a scarcity to justify a consolidation. He added it is also a by-product of the province being $300 billion in debt, and unable to maintain core services.
“We have three courts – criminal, provincial offences and small claims – this is the smallest pebble to throw in the pond to see what the ripples and what the effects are. Do they have a secondary agenda to move the other ones? That’s my fear.”
Councillor Anthon said the area faced a similar closure in the 1990s. She recalls the police having to drive to Lindsay for court and since they had few officers they were worried about coverage back in the townships.
Devolin added that a lot of people that end up in our courts are disadvantaged by a lack of transportation, low income or are on some form of social assistance. He thinks municipal government may face more costs for transport to and from Lindsay court.
The petition is at County Council and service counters at other municipal offices and can be signed online at lauriescottmpp.com.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.