In 1993, Ken Skilnick, then a Fraser Valley lawyer, served on a committee to investigate a new courthouse in Abbotsford. It was fitting that 25 years later, on July 11, 2018, Judge Ken Skilnick represented the Provincial Court at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new Abbotsford courthouse.
Reflecting on the community’s repeated calls for a new facility, Judge Skilnick commented on how meaningful the ceremony was for those who had worked for decades to obtain a replacement for a courthouse suffering from functional, overcrowding, security and safety issues.
Breaking ground for the new Abbotsford Courthouse, July 11, 2018
Nine months later, construction of a new $150 million facility is well underway. Located adjacent to the Abbotsford City Hall on land leased to the province by the city, the new building will double the capacity of the existing courthouse and allow future expansion. Expected to open in 2021, it will contain 14 courtrooms, including Provincial and Supreme Court courtrooms and rooms suitable for case conferences, restorative justice and Indigenous justice cases, in an area of 16,500 square meters. By including space for a law library, Community Corrections and BC Prosecution Services, it should provide improved access to a range of legal resources.
New Abbotsford Courthouse – artist’s rendering
At present, only Provincial Court cases are dealt with in Abbotsford. The inclusion of courtrooms for the BC Supreme Court in the new building will mean that Abbotsford and Mission residents will no longer have to travel to Chilliwack for cases involving divorce, disputes over $35,000 and criminal jury trials.
Both Provincial and Supreme Courts have had planning input from the beginning. The Provincial Court saw this as an exciting opportunity to plan not just for 2021 but well into the future, incorporating innovative design and technology to create a model that could be used in the design of other 21st century courthouses.
While construction proceeds, mock up court rooms have been constructed and stakeholders’ feedback is being incorporated in their final design. Representatives of both courts, Court Services’ staff, BC Sheriffs Service, BC Prosecution Service and the local bar have participated in a mock up review process. Representatives of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Legal Services Society, victim services, Courthouse Libraries and Justice Access Centre staff have also been consulted. And the project team has worked with City of Abbotsford staff on exterior design elements.
Commenting on the new courthouse, Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie said, “The Abbotsford Courthouse is the face of justice for people in Abbotsford, Mission, and the surrounding areas of the Fraser Valley. Expanded physical facilities will enable the Provincial Court to expand its services to better serve those communities. We are very eagerly awaiting the opening of the new building.”
Abbotsford Courthouse today