The two satellite court locations have been unused since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic according to SDG staff. POA courts deal with federal, provincial, and municipal court matters that are ticketed and not under the Criminal Code of Canada. These include Highway Traffic Act offences (speeding) or municipal bylaw offences.
“We currently have not had any procedings in the satellite courts since the onset of COVID and there is no indication that any of these courts will open,” said Rebecca Russell, director of finance for SDG. “We’re at the point right now where we’re trying to determine if there is any benefit of having those satellite courts or if council would like to see us proceed with terminating the courts altogether.”
A report to SDG council showed that pre-pandemic, the courts were used 10 days per year at each facility. The cost to lease the Morrisburg court space is $3,250 annually, while the Alexandria location cost $3,500 annually.
The SDG Counties offices, where the main POA court operates, was upgraded in 2021 using money provided through COVID-19 modernization funding. This enabled virtual (Zoom) participation for court.
The report cited the need for the two satellite courts to be modernized before those locations could be reopened.
While previous terms of SDG Counties council fought to keep the satellite courts open, councillors at the October 16 meeting did not put up a fight. They were in agreement for not renewing the leases. Warden Tony Fraser said that for some, this would be a big change.
“I look back to the previous term Counties Council and there was a concern about the courts. The lack of use, the rent, and all that.”
Councillor Jamie MacDonald (North Glengarry) said that he always fought to keep the court open in Alexandria.
“I do see that we are not using them at this point and it doesn’t make sense to continue operating them,” he concluded.
Councillor Marc St. Pierre and alternate-Councillor Cole Veinotte, both representing South Dundas, did not comment on the closure during discussion. Council unanimously agreed to not renew the leases.
It is not known if the closure of the two POA court locations will impact criminal court, which has resumed in Morrisburg and Alexandria. Ministry of the Attorney General officials confirmed to The Leader that operations at those two satellite courts had resumed operations to pre-pandemic levels.
The Counties’ lease for the Morrisburg court space will expire on December 31, 2023; and for the Alexandria court May 31, 2024.
This article was originally written for the Morrisburg Leader.