Cases will move back to Har­bour Grace

The Compass - - NEWS - edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

“We got a pos­i­tive re­sponse by do­ing it this way,” he said Friday, seated in the coun­cil chambers along­side sev­eral of his col­leagues. An­drew Parsons like­wise com­pli­mented Mayor Barnes for play­ing such an im­por­tant role in help­ing se­cure a bet­ter deal for gov­ern­ment. There are also con­di­tions within the lease al­low­ing gov­ern­ment to pur­chase the build­ing. The jus­tice min­is­ter said gov­ern­ment might look at uti­liz­ing it fur­ther as leases ex­pire else­where.

“We might have an op­por­tu­nity then to look at fur­ther sav­ings by plac­ing other gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties into a build­ing such as this,” he said.

Lo­cal Lib­eral MHA Pam Parsons, who was among those heav­ily in­volved in talks to save the court, said she was as­sured ev­ery time she spoke with the jus­tice min­is­ter that he was still work­ing on the mat­ter.

“I’m just so happy that this news is out there,” she said Friday.

“I think it was rec­og­nized that the need, the de­mand for this ser­vice which we have been uti­liz­ing in this region since the 1800s was cer­tainly a ne­ces­sity … No one sup­ported the idea of clos­ing this court, and ob­vi­ously the jus­tice min­is­ter, he heard that.”

Lawyer’s re­ac­tion

Car­bon­ear de­fence lawyer John Babb cer­tainly didn’t sup­port the de­ci­sion to close the court­house. He formed a com­mit­tee that was pre­pared to take gov­ern­ment to court.

A hear­ing sched­uled for Tues­day in St. John’s on an in­ter­locu­tory ap­pli­ca­tion will not go ahead now that the court isn’t clos­ing. How­ever, Babb still in­tends to bring his ar­gu­ments about ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence and ac­cess to jus­tice to New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court

“I can’t say I was sur­prised, be­cause the case had such mer­its,” he said Friday. “This wasn’t a Hail Mary, it was a con­ver­sion af­ter a field goal, I felt.”

Babb does not buy the jus­tice min­is­ter’s claim that the Supreme Court of Canada rul­ing is what con­vinced his de­part­ment to re­verse the clo­sures. He said gov­ern­ment knows it would not have lost in court and sim­ply did not want to face that out­come, not­ing too the Supreme Court de­ci­sion was two weeks old.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Paul Davis ap­peared to have a sim­i­lar take on the move. On Friday, his party re­leased Provin­cial Court Chief Judge Pamela Gould­ing’s re­spond­ing af­fi­davit to the case Babb and his com­mit­tee brought to court. Gould­ing stated the court clo­sures raise “sig­nif­i­cant and im­por­tant is­sues re­lat­ing to ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice and ac­cess to jus­tice.”

“The (Dwight) Ball Lib­er­als did not do their home­work be­fore clos­ing the court, did not lis­ten to peo­ple af­ter mak­ing the de­ci­sion and are be­ing faulted now for hav­ing made an un­con­sti­tu­tional de­ci­sion as put for­ward by the com­mit­tee,” Davis said in a news re­lease. “They had no choice but to ad­mit they were wrong and re­verse the court clo­sure de­ci­sion.”

As for what will hap­pen over the next cou­ple of months with al­most all mat­ters sched­uled to go be­fore judges in St. John’s and Clarenville, An­drew Parsons said he has full con­fi­dence in the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of New­found­land and Labrador Provin­cial Court ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“There may be some dis­rup­tion at the be­gin­ning, but given the fact we are now here is one of those things we can all work through to make sure that there’s lit­tle dis­rup­tion.”

For court em­ploy­ees who con­tin­ued to do their jobs for months fac­ing uncertainty, Friday’s news was a morale boost. They thought the process had reached the point of no re­turn.

“The last three months have been stress­ful,” the court­house em­ployee said.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

A week away from clo­sure, new life was breathed into Har­bour Grace Provin­cial Court Friday with the sign­ing of a new 10-year lease agree­ment be­tween the prov­ince

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