If like us, you’ve noticed the giant eyesore that was recently stuck onto the side of the Canmore Provincial Courthouse, you’ve also had the same reaction of confusion and disbelief.
Confusion because last time we checked, our local design guidelines for built structures would prohibit such a monstrosity. Disbelief because everyone is asking – is this really necessary?
A large fence topped with razor-wire to isolate people being transported to and from the courthouse might be more welcome in a place like Guantanamo Bay Cuba than in a town of 14,000 residents in the Rocky Mountains.
The Justice and Solicitor General’s Office of the province of Alberta is off-base and out of touch to what this community needs if it thinks this new addition will improve safety at the courthouse or be well-received.
An error in judgement was made when officials decided that zero consultation with stakeholders in the community – including their own Crown prosecutors and judges – was necessary. Likely, hired consultants from outside the community were tasked with assessing the structure’s risk and functionality.
But they missed a few pertinent factors. The first of which is the fact that accused people in the criminal court system appear by closed circuit television from remand centres across the province. The actual usage of the one cell at the courthouse for prisoners is minimal at best. If the government wanted to actually improve the functioning of the courthouse, it would have added more cells and spaces for counsel to speak with clients instead. Or perhaps overall improvements to the 40 year old building itself could have been accomplished to the benefit of the entire community.
It also appears that the province was given a free pass to build whatever it felt was necessary from the municpality because it was related to the security of the building. This seems short-sighted and an excuse to get around the development approval process in Canmore – a process that is incredibly important to residents to ensure the built form that is approved meets the standards and values we feel is appropriate as a community.
When the local school board applied to the Town of Banff to build a new elementary school, it became the only new school in the province that did not include portable structures due to the community’s strict design guidelines. There should be no free passes for the provincial government when it comes to our development approval process. The government should have had to make its case for why this structure as it is currently designed, was necessary for our community.
Not only does it look ridiculous and out of place, but it gives the impression that incredibly dangerous and menacing criminals are being transported in and out of our courthouse. That simply doesn’t fit with the facts. Furthermore, even if a person is denied bail or is in custody coming too and from the court, they are still innocent until proven guilty. This entry way implies a much different reality.
Finally, the provincial government indicated it has not received any concerns or complaints regarding the structure. The Outlook, however, has been party to some of the complaints that have been made to Justice and the Solicitor General’s Office regarding this issue.
At the end of the day, given what we have observed on this issue, it would appear the province not only doesn’t feel it is necessary to consult anyone in the community before it changes the built form of our public buildings, but it also withholds information regarding those who have complained after the fact.
We would encourage the community to share its thoughts about the razor-wire topped fenced entryway to our provincial building directly with the minister’s office, or our own MLA Miranda Rosin.
As a community, we had no opportunity to discuss, approve or appeal this and that is unacceptable. This structure is unwanted, unnecessary and should be removed.