Justice Critic for the Saskatchewan NDP Nicole Sarauer is expressing her disappointment with the Provincial government’s move to convert the Lloydminster provincial court to a circuit location.
Sarauer indicates that seven positions will be affected when the move takes effect in September.
“The Ministry has informed me that two staff members will have the option to transfer to North Battleford Court Office, and then the local community, the Bar Association has told me that those two members are, I believe, Sheriffs or guards. Then three positions are going to be terminated and then four term positions will end early.”
An email from the Justice Minister’s Office stated, “the Chief Judge, in consultation with the Ministry and with a view to improving court capacity, has decided to convert Lloydminster into a circuit court location, served from North Battleford. This will be effective September 1, 2021.”
In reality nine positions will be affected. Lloydminster lawyer Ryan Armstrong says there was no consultation on the move and that the overall effect will be a slowdown of the work of the court.
Armstrong says Lloydminster had the highest number of new charges per judge in 2019.
“So how that comes about is there is one judge in Lloydminster, so total number of new charges in the Lloydminster Court along with the two remote locations, Onion Lake and St. Walburg. So you take the total number of new charges in a year and divide by the number of judges and Lloydminster has got the most new charges per judge in 2019.”
He adds Lloydminster is a busy court with the fourth highest number of criminal appearances per judge in 2019.
Without a judge or staff, Armstrong says one of the practical realities is if someone has to file small claims and they are unable to do so when court sits, then they will have to travel to North Battleford. They could hire a lawyer, but as the majority of small claim matters are self-represented, they would not be hiring a lawyer from the get go.
Another matter is Saskatchewan weather. Armstrong points out, it may not be an issue now, but in January and February, a judge and staff having to drive from North Battleford to Lloydminster could be impacted by winter storms and that will delay the sitting of the court.
Both Armstrong and Sarauer indicate they hope that government would reconsider as there is time before the decision takes effect in September.