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This article was published 13/9/2017 (279 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba’s official Opposition has piled onto those critical of the recent closure of Virden’s court office.
Closed since late August after its lone full-time employee left the job approximately eight months ago, Virden Mayor Jeff McConnell expressed concern earlier this week that it would not reopen.
Manitoba NDP justice critic Andrew Swan (Minto) shares in this concern, offering that it appears as though the government were "moving by stealth" toward a longer-term goal of closing the court centre.
He said that it’s concerning they have failed to secure a replacement during the past eight months, during which time a casual employee has attempted to fill the gap.
"We know how important it is, not only for the people in Virden but for people in southwestern Manitoba, to have that court centre open," Swan said. "It’s difficult to understand why the provincial government hasn’t filled that position."
Swan said that the provincial government needs to "step up and be very clear about this and get somebody into that position so the court office is open."
The provincial government remained ambiguous in its position on Tuesday, offering a written statement that noted "the court office in Virden may be closed from time to time."
"The office will be open on Friday morning and then closing when court is sitting that day, as is its usual practice," the statement continued, adding that these hours may extend into the afternoon depending on the number of matters to be heard.
The statement ended by noting, "Access to justice is very important and all court locations and circuit venues are routinely reviewed to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the communities that they serve."
The same as with a statement provided to the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, there was no indication as to when the office might reopen for day-to-day operations.
In addition to serving as a circuit venue, the centre until recently held regular hours, during which people could file documents, pay fines and go for other day-to-day court-related services.
Local police also used the centre to process paperwork and have court documents officially sworn, which they now have to do in Brandon.
By not filling the position in Virden, the provincial government is being "penny-wise and pound foolish," Swan said.
By making officers spend half their day going to and from Brandon to fill out paperwork, they’re are no real financial savings in the closure, he said.
"That’s actually costing taxpayers —costing citizens — more money."
Further to that, he said that they’re tying up resources in Brandon that were previously spent devoted to Brandon matters, forcing the office to do more work with the same resources as before.
"There are no easy solutions to improving the justice system, we know there’s still work to be done," he said. "Leaving important positions open doesn’t improve justice, it makes access to justice worse and actually creates more backlogs."
Swan said that the closure would have a ripple effect on both Brandon and the system as a whole, which he said is "not how we build a better justice system."
A message left with the Brandon Provincial Courthouse was not returned by press time on Tuesday.
» email@example.com, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB