Squamish courthouse closes doors for good 

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Shortly after the decision to delay closing the Squamish courthouse Lonsdale met with Attorney General Geoff Plant and other ministry officials and was told the situation would be investigated.

"I am totally disenchanted, frustrated and disheartened at how we have been treated through this," said Lonsdale.

"The Attorney General made a commitment to fully investigate and I believe he hasn’t lived up to it.

"We asked to be involved, we asked to help where we could but that is not what happened."

Initially the community was told the courthouse must close because the renovation to the courthouse, expected to cost $4 million, was too costly for the amount of cases it handled.

The ministry also said the court handled mostly traffic cases and was underutilized for its budget. Lonsdale agrees many of the cases are traffic related but says they take up only 10 per cent of actual court hours.

Generally13 days a month are spent dealing with criminal, youth, family and small claims. For four days a month the whole court moved to Pemberton and about six hours a month was dedicated to traffic disputes.

Lonsdale believes the courthouse was closed because the government believes driving 45 minutes to North Vancouver is acceptable.

Previously Lonsdale estimated the loss of the courthouse would cost the community $45,000 to $55,000 in extra RCMP costs.

Government figures show that Squamish courthouse is in use 106 per cent of the time.

And it is not just the court which has locked its doors. Squamish is still reeling from earlier government cuts to income assistance. Last month legal aid was axed in the community due to government funding cutbacks and the corridor has lost its only native court worker for the same reason.

Families who need help through the courts will be devastated by this closure said Melaney Crowston, program co-ordinator at the Howe Sound Women’s Centre.

She said when it comes to choosing between travelling to North Vancouver or looking after the kids the courts will lose out.

"They are going to say, ‘I am going to buy milk and diapers for my baby and forget going to North Vancouver," said Crowston

"And that is going to make them vulnerable."

Add into the mix possible four-hour closures everyday, four days a week for three seasons for highway upgrades starting in 2004, and access to the courts is even more precarious for those living along the corridor.

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