When newsrooms in St. John’s got the notice, speculation buzzed around the offices, across open line radio airwaves, and down the halls of the local legal community.
Judy Manning, Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General, was going to be joined by Premier Paul Davis to make an announcement Thursday afternoon. It had something to do with courts, and it was going to happen inside provincial court in Atlantic Place.
It was the day after the PCs lost their fifth straight by-election, when the Liberals took Davis and PC territory in Conception Bay South.
So, it was a rough week for the PCs, and these two major players had a big announcement to make at court and some people were a little bit excited and a lot curious.
“A new court complex for the capital city would have a positive impact, as different services can be located very close to one another,” Premier Paul Davis told those assembled in court room number 7.
The government plans to build a new court complex, to replace the ancient courthouse on Duckworth Street and bring the disparate courts together under one roof – something many people are celebrating, indeed.
But it’s an expensive endeavour, when the government is already promising other costly capital infrastructure endeavours like a new prison to replace HMP, and neither the premier nor the minister had many specifics at the announcement.
Nor was it the announcement many people were hoping for , and one many say would satisfy a more immediate need: re-instating the Family Violence Intervention Court, a $500,000 a year court that started with a pilot project in March 2009 and was quashed in the 2013 budget.
“Bricks and mortar are important, but I think that saving lives is more important, “ St. John’s lawyer Lynn Moore told reporters.
NDP critic Gerry Rogers has also been pushing for the court, which she says represented 0.2 per cent of the Department of Justice’s budget, to be brought back.
“Five women were murdered by their partners last year. Domestic violence is a major issue across the whole province. Addressing it is government’s responsibility and the Family Violence Intervention Court is the best way to do this,” Rogers has said.
The FVIC, like one still in place in Nova Scotia, had a therapeutic approach to addressing root causes of family violence, while still focusing on the safety of victims and accountability for the offenders. Rogers, Moore, and other proponents say it worked – preventing reoffences and helping victims.
Although the premier says he and Manning think it’s important, and it’s an active file, there is nothing to indicate the family violence prevention court will be reinstated anytime soon.
Girls and women are most often victims of family violence, and a 2010 analysis found 1,806 people in Newfoundland and Labrador suffered intimate partner violence that year – 418 out of every 100,000 people – a rate many say isn’t changing.