Abbotsford’s new $152 million courthouse will help ease the demands of the growing Fraser Valley population now and into the future, speakers said Thursday (Feb. 4) during the facility’s virtual official opening.
The ceremony was held via a live-streamed Zoom event with local and provincial representatives.
B.C. Attorney-General David Eby said the Abbotsford Law Courts (ALC), which opened to the public in mid-January, is the first brand-new courthouse in the province since 2002.
He said there has been significant population growth in the region, resulting in increased demands on the justice system in those years.
“The Fraser Valley has really needed expansion of justice services for a long time,” he said.
Eby said the new ALC on Veterans Way doubles the capacity of the former provincial courthouse on South Fraser Way and allows for future expansion.
He said it includes an expanded law library and is home to the BC Prosecution Service, community corrections and a justice access centre “to help people navigate their family and civil law issues.”
It also includes eight provincial and three Supreme courtrooms.
Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie of the provincial court of B.C. said the former courthouse was built in 1967 with just one courtroom. At the time of its closure, there were five provincial courtrooms and two conference rooms.
Gillespie said Abbotsford and Mission has been one of the fastest growing areas in the province, and there has been talk for many years of the need for a new courthouse.
Gillespie said the new ALC incorporates “innovative design and technology” that can be used in the design of other courthouses in the future.
“The provincial court welcomes the opportunity these new modern facilities will give us to meet the needs of these growing communities by improving access to justice and upholding the rule of law,” she said.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the Supreme Court of B.C. said he heard the first Supreme Court trial in the ALC last month.
“The facility was everything I’ve been told I could expect,” he said.
Hinkson said the new courthouse adds “much-needed court capacity” to residents of the Fraser Valley and will enable them to access justice services closer to home.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the ALC not only improves better access to the justice system, but also provides services and jobs to residents across the region.
Lisa Beare, minister of citizens’ services, which leases the ALC land from the City of Abbotsford, said more than 1,000 jobs were created during the construction phase.
She said the ALC incorporates state-of-the-art technology, environmentally friendly building standards, and accessible hallways, courtrooms, washrooms and entranceways.
Other speakers participating in the virtual opening were Chief Alice McKay of Matsqui First Nation, Lissa Smith of Metis Nation BC, and Chief Justice Robert Bauman.
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.