New Abbotsford Law Courts open

 A state-of-the-art courthouse has opened in Abbotsford that will make justice services more accessible and convenient for people in the region.

David Eby, Attorney General, the Chief Justice of British Columbia, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, Indigenous leaders, Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services, and Henry Braun, Mayor of Abbotsford, took part in a virtual event to mark the opening on Thursday.

“This new courthouse facility, the first entirely new courthouse built in the province in almost 20 years, will double the capacity of the old courthouse and allow for future expansion to accommodate the rapid growth of Abbotsford and neighbouring communities,” Eby said. “The Abbotsford Law Courts will improve access to justice for people, in an appropriately sized building that allows victims, offenders, lawyers, judges, court staff and the public access in a safe and responsible manner.”

The Abbotsford Law Courts will house community corrections, prosecution services, legal aid, duty counsel, Aboriginal court workers, a justice access centre and an expanded courthouse library, consolidated in one facility.

The 16,723 square-metre (180,000 square-foot) building is located in Abbotsford’s city centre. It houses 14 courtrooms: eight Provincial Court courtrooms, three Supreme Court courtrooms and three rooms suitable for case conferences, restorative justice and Indigenous justice cases. Court operations began at the new courthouse on January 18. The new courthouse is also able to accommodate proceedings of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

The lack of updated technology in older buildings, such as the original Abbotsford courthouse, hampered the capacity of B.C. courts to maintain efficient operations. The new building is fully equipped with the latest technology supporting the convenience of remote appearances, reducing costs for litigants, lawyers and the court. All the rooms contain modern video conferencing and presentation systems for court hearings and other functions, resulting in efficiencies throughout the facility.

The Abbotsford Law Courts mark the first entirely new law courts facility built in B.C. since the Chilliwack Law Courts were completed in 2002.

Chief Alice McKay, Matsqui First Nation, said: “Matsqui First Nation joins in the excitement to welcome this new facility in our core traditional territory. It is a step forward in the process of connecting two communities and being good neighbours. It allows us to work together, build our relationships, share programs and services in the best interest of our citizens.”

Lissa Dawn Smith, acting President and Minister of Justice, Métis Nation BC (MNBC), said: “The opening of the new Abbotsford Law Courts, increasing capacity and including Indigenous cases in one location, is an innovative approach for people accessing justice services in the Fraser Valley region. With a recently completed Métis Justice Strategy soon to be released, Métis Nation BC looks forward to collaborating in initiatives supporting justice for Métis people and our Chartered Communities in the region. MNBC is pleased to be partnering with the Province on this momentous occasion.”

Robert Bauman, Chief Justice of British Columbia, said: “The courthouse remains an important place in the community, where people can bring their disputes to receive fair and impartial resolution. The establishment of a new courthouse in Abbotsford represents a commitment to ensuring a reliable and accessible justice system for British Columbians.”

Christopher Hinkson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, said: “We are pleased to support increased access to justice for British Columbians with the opening of the Abbotsford Law Courts. The new facility will allow residents of the Fraser Valley to resolve their disputes closer to home and add much-needed court capacity in one of the province’s fastest-growing regions.”

Melissa Gillespie, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, said: “The Abbotsford courthouse has been the face of justice for people in Abbotsford, Mission and the surrounding areas of the Fraser Valley. The Provincial Court is delighted that the new Law Courts will provide the physical facilities needed to expand court services to better serve those communities. The addition of space for the B.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, as well as rooms suitable for case conferences, restorative justice and Indigenous justice cases, and for a law library, Community Corrections and BC Prosecution Service offices, will provide Fraser Valley residents with improved access to a range of legal resources. The Provincial Court saw the collaborative process used to develop the new Law Courts as an opportunity to plan not just for 2021 but well into the future, incorporating innovative design and technology. We are excited by the opportunities the new building offers to improve access to justice in the Fraser Valley.”

Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services, said: “Through innovative and green design, we’ve created a safe, fully accessible and energy-efficient building that will improve people’s access to justice services, meet the needs of a rapidly growing community and help put B.C. on a cleaner, more sustainable path.”

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said: “Today is an exciting day for our community. The opening of the Abbotsford Law Courts with the new Provincial and Supreme Court facilities not only means better access to our justice system, but also services and jobs for residents across the region. The new Law Courts play a foundational role in the city’s civic precinct and our growing city centre. Abbotsford is extremely grateful to the Government of British Columbia for this significant investment in our city and our region.”

Quick Facts

* The new courthouse has been constructed within the city centre civic precinct on land leased to the Province by the City of Abbotsford.

* The B.C. government contributed $152.2 million in capital funding to the project, while the City of Abbotsford contributed $5.7 million in a land leasing arrangement with the Province.

* The Abbotsford Law Courts building is located at 32375 Veteran’s Way and replaces the former courthouse at 32203 South Fraser Way.

* The Abbotsford Law Courts are part of the Lower Fraser Valley Court Strategy, which is based on demographic and courtroom demand analysis over the next 20 years.

* During construction, the courthouse supported over 1,000 jobs.