SASKATOON – If you’ve ever renovated your home, you know just how inconvenient making a sandwich or taking a shower can be. Now try to imagine just how challenging it would be to orchestrate a massive renovation and expansion around court.
On Monday, a celebration was in session at Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench after achieving such a feat. The building originally built in 1958 is now bigger, better and officially complete.
In December, the major $31.2 million facelift to building was finalized, bringing justice into the 21st century.
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“There’s a lot of DNA evidence, there’s a lot of photographic evidence and a lot of that needs to be presented in a logical and fair way and the only way to do that is through the using technology,” said Chief Justice Martel Popescul of Court of Queen’s Bench.
“Now we have the technology to have the lawyers be able present their cases effectively to the judge or to the jury if we have a jury involved.”
Since the start of the expansion in 2011, improvements have been made to the building’s security and accessibility.
With more space thanks to the massive undertaking, the Family Law Division has now moved over from the First Nations Bank Building which means the court’s operations are finally under one roof.
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During the building of the new four-storey addition, two more courtrooms were added, a new registrar’s office as well as office space for the judges.
The courthouse also features five pre-trial rooms to help parties settle their disputes.
“Saskatchewan was a pioneer in having pre-trial conferences developed and now we have the space to actually hold these pre-trial conferences,” said Popescul.
“Which means a lot of cases don’t have to go to a full trial if a judge is able to help the parties resolve them without the necessity of a trial.”
According to Popescul, 60 to 70 per cent of cases are resolved this way saving the system a significant amount of money and time.
During the formal ceremony it was very clear that the renovation and expansion process wasn’t an easy one.
Several officials mentioned the mammoth hurdle they faced having court proceedings even high profile trials continue during courthouse construction and the noise levels they would sometimes have to compete with.
“There were occasions where we would have for example a sexual assault trial going, a young complainant testifying and just as she’s getting to a delicate part of her testimony, the jackhammers start,” added Popescul.
It forced construction crews at times to shut things down over the five years project. Either way, officials say it was all worth while and you may even have a chance to see it for yourself if selected for jury duty.
“They have to sit for long periods of time, sometimes days, weeks or even months and now we have a facility that accommodates them that much better.”