After decades of cajoling, commissions, studies and promises, construction is finally set to begin on a modern courthouse for Abbotsford.
An official groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday, where provincial court judge Kenneth Skilnick reflected on the local legal community’s enduring calls for a new facility.
“Each time that the promise of a new courthouse was made and failed to realize, it reminded me of that famous Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie Brown is about to kick the football and Lucy is holding the football and pulls it away at the last moment,” said Skilnick, who recalled serving on a commission in 1993. “This is especially meaningful to me and all the rest of us who have been waiting to kick that football.”
The courthouse currently in use was found in 2012 to be infested by vermin and plagued by “very serious functional, overcrowding, security and safety issues.”
Skilnick said he wished legendary local lawyer G. Jack Harris and former mayor George Ferguson, both of whom have died in the last five years, would have been present to see ground finally broken on the new $150 million facility, located on Trethewey Street just east of the Clearbrook Library.
The building will include 14 courtrooms, including several Supreme Court rooms. Local Supreme Court cases currently must be heard either in Chilliwack or in New Westminster or Vancouver. Several rooms can also be used for restorative justice and indigenous justice cases.
“A courthouse has an important place, both in the administration of justice generally and in the community,” associate chief justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court said. “This one will stand as a symbol of the democratic values on which our society is based, but it will also provide a real bricks and mortar place in the community where members of the public can see those values being applied.”
Attorney General David Eby noted that the new facility will be the first such courthouse built in B.C. in a decade. It is expected to open in 2021. The city is leasing the land to the province.