‘It was like a kick in the guts’


Less than an hour af­ter he got the news his job will be elim­i­nated, a Har­bour Grace pro­vin­cial court sher­iff’s of­fi­cer had a hard time ex­press­ing how dev­as­tated he felt.

“It was like a kick in the guts,” he said this af­ter­noon shortly af­ter pro­vin­cial Fi­nance Min­is­ter Cathy Ben­nett an­nounced that as part of the Lib­eral’s 2016 bud­get, the court would be clos­ing.

The sher­iff’s of­fi­cer — who asked that his name not be pub­lished — had just ar­rived home from work. Be­fore leav­ing court, he said he and a few oth­ers re­ceived a let­ter from their man­ager, giv­ing them the news of the shut­down.

“While not im­me­di­ate, this will have a di­rect im­pact on your po­si­tion,” he said, read­ing the let­ter aloud.

As the sound of crum­pled pa­per could be heard over the phone, he added, “They haven’t of­fi­cially given us our no­tice, but they’re ba­si­cally telling us it’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

He said while he will likely be repo­si­tioned in the prov­ince since he has more se­nior­ity than many other sher­iff’s of­fi­cers in the union, it will still mean the loss of three jobs.

“I might be OK, but some­one is go­ing to lose their job. We’re go­ing to lose at least three peo­ple,” he said. “This is rough.”

Har­bour Grace pro­vin­cial court will be one of four courts clos­ing across the prov­ince, Ben­nett an­nounced.

The pro­vin­cial court in Wabush will also be shut­ting its doors, along with New­found­land Supreme Courts in Grand Bank and Grand Fall­sWind­sor.

“I guess all those elec­tion prom­ises are out the win­dow,” the sher­iff’s of­fi­cer said.

A pro­vin­cial court clerk in St. John’s told The Tele­gram she was “to­tally shocked” to hear the news of the court clo­sures.

“I’m se­ri­ously blown away,” said the woman, who also wanted to re­main anony­mous.

“For peo­ple in those courts to find out to­day that they don’t have a job any­more - wow, it’s aw­ful.”

In her speech in the House of Assem­bly to­day, Ben­nett said the govern­ment will save ap­prox­i­mately $ 1.3 mil­lion an­nu­ally by re­struc­tur­ing the court sys­tem, which in­cludes the clo­sures, in con­sul­ta­tion with the ju­di­ciary.

It’s left many peo­ple won­der­ing what else the re­struc­tur­ing en­tails and how it will af­fect staff.

“There’s a lot of un­cer­tainty,” she said. “Un­til they give us de­tails, every­body’s on edge here. It’s re­ally up­set­ting.”

Mean­while, the govern­ment an­nounced it would ex­pand Uni­fied Fam­ily Court, which Ben­nett said would re­sult in “more cases be­ing heard and fewer de­lays.”

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