Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Rouyn-Noranda courthouse: the SQI is delaying, the legal community is wondering

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The Rouyn-Noranda courthouse needs a facelift, according to several speakers.

  • Gabriel Poirier (View profile)Gabriel Poirier

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La Société québécoise des infrastructures ( SQI) does not know when the renovation of the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse will be completed. However, the building was to be revamped from start to finish by 2027. This situation risks displeasing the legal community, while several speakers have been alerting the authorities to the dangerous nature of the premises for a decade.

Considering everything mentioned above, we sincerely believe that it is only a matter of time before an unfortunate event occurs at the palace of justice. Such an event will further expose the current emergency situation.

These words could have been written today, but they date instead from September 2015. They are taken from a warning addressed to the director of the courthouses of Rouyn-Noranda and Ville-Marie as well as the director of the courthouses of Rouyn-Noranda and Ville-Marie. to the regional director of judicial services at the time.

The ten-page document, obtained by Radio-Canada, was prepared by the Committee for bringing the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse up to standard.

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It is easy to access the different rooms of the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse, a situation which raises security questions.

This committee was at the time made up of six judicial figures, including Marc Lemay, former president of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Bar, and Nancy McKenna, former judge of the Court of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue–Eeyou Istchee–Nunavik. It is still chaired to this day by lawyer Bernard Barrette.

Nearly 10 years later, little has changed in Rouyn-Noranda. Work had been announced in 2021, but the SQI, project manager, is currently unable to reveal the details.

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The Rouyn-Noranda courthouse expansion and restoration project is still in planning. The timetable and precise nature of the work are not known for the moment, indicates the organization by email, without explaining this apparent change of direction.

The signatories of the document obtained by Radio-Canada identified 16 deficiencies and shortcomings to be urgently corrected. The situation is such that they point the finger at the authorities.

This denunciation of the emergency situation currently prevailing at the courthouse means that your management, your superiors, the ministries concerned and the government will be directly held responsible responsible for a drama or tragedy that could occur in the coming months or years, due to inaction or the wait-and-see attitude to act quickly in this matter, we read in a paragraph of the warning.

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Among the shortcomings of the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse, several speakers deplore the absence of security corridors for judges.

The document provides a history work carried out at the courthouse since its founding in 1954 and highlights the lack of vision for it.

It is clear that the work carried out previously was carried out to respond to specific needs, without a medium or long term vision of what the overall needs that are necessary in our time for a sound administration of justice in this area could represent. building, we add in another paragraph.

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Several electrical wires trail at the feet of jury members during trials before judge and jury.

Met at his office in Rouyn-Noranda, Me Bernard Barrette himself claims to have difficulty obtaining acknowledgments of receipt from the ministry of Justice.

I have not been informed of the progress of the work concerning the renovation and upgrading of the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse despite my email reminders. We are not asking for state secrets. We just want to know where the project is and what the planned deadlines are, he specifies.

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Faced with the state of affairs, some stakeholders wonder if it would not be less expensive to build a new palace of justice. The photo was taken in fall 2023.

To what extent is this issue one of the department’s priorities? The question arises in Rouyn-Noranda for the legal community.

A quote from Me Bernard Barrette, president of the Committee for bringing the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse up to standard

The last email received in May 2023 only explained that a new manager was leading the project. He claims not to have obtained any answers from the latter.

It is a courthouse that no longer meets security standards. Let us remember the Longueuil event that occurred in recent weeks. In Rouyn-Noranda, this can happen even more easily, because everything is open, emphasizes Me Barrette.

Criticized from all sides since the knife attack at the Longueuil courthouse, the Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, retorts that all palaces in the province are safe.

It is important to reassure citizens and repeat that our courthouses, for all of Quebec, are safe places. Special constables and security agents are on the ground in courthouses in Quebec to ensure the security of the premises, supports Minister Bonnardel's office by email.

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The Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, maintains that Quebec courthouses are safe. (File photo)

Of the opposite opinion, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Bar would like in the short term a greater number of special constables in the region's courthouses.

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The president of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Bar, Me Kathy Tremblay, wants the number of special constables to increase in the courthouses of the region.

The understaffing of these professionals responsible for securing government buildings also raises many questions in Rouyn-Noranda, but also in Val-d 'Or, to Amos and to Ville-Marie.

At the Superior Court, there are no special constables immediately assigned to the courtrooms in the region. When there are hearings in family matters, where things can sometimes get heated, there are no special constables immediately in the room, points out Me Tremblay.

The Ministry of Public Security has meanwhile expressed its intention to train 144 more special constables in Quebec.

Like Me Tremblay, lawyer Michel -Étienne Parayre sees special constables as an interesting avenue, well before the use of magnetic detectors.

This is the main problem, he believes. It can vary greatly from one day to the next, even if they are present the majority of the time.

Mr. Parayre recalls a situation he experienced, where a judge turned to the Sûreté du Québec to compensate for the absence of special constables in his courtroom. He wanted the police to be present before making his decision. This remains something very rare.

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The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions and his staff had to move and leave their offices which were located at basement of the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse.

Lawyer Bernard Barrette believes that it is still possible to undertake and complete the renovation of the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse on time, provided that we start now. We must go to tender this year to allow work to begin in 2025 and delivery in 2027, he explains.

Me Barrette also wants the committee he chairs to be able to take part in planning the work as well as in reflections and discussions related to the project.

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