Gore Bay offers municipal spaces to Infrastructure Ontario for jury trials

Superior Court jury trials have been moved from the courthouse for the foreseeable future.

GORE BAY – While the Town of Gore Bay has been contacted about available space in town that could be used for provincial jury trials, council is still concerned the province may still end up moving the trials off-island. 

“Everyone is aware of the (Supreme Court of Ontario) courts issue,” said Stasia Carr, clerk of the Town of Gore Bay at a general government committee meeting last week. “We had an email last Friday from Infrastructure Ontario. They were inquiring about whether we have space available. Our suggestion was to have the jury trials here at the community hall. They (province) are looking at other available places on Manitoulin as well. 

“I stressed the courts have been held in Gore Bay for many years, that Gore Bay is the judicial seat of Manitoulin Island,” said Ms. Carr. “I told (the IO representative) the town would accommodate them any way we can.”

The provincial consultation process, “only happened after the concerns were raised (about moving the jury trials off the Island),” said Councillor Jack Clark.

Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne pointed out that Algoma-Manitoulin MPP, “Michael Mantha was all over this issue when the rumours first came out. He was at Queen’s Park and he talked to the minister about the concerns being raised about the courts moving to Sudbury. The local First Nations and the MMA (Manitoulin Municipal Association) sent letters indicating all of our concerns that no one had consulted the municipalities or First Nations on the Island; we had been blindsided.”

“Mr. Mantha was good in making it a point to make (the province) aware of all of this,” said Mayor Osborne. “Hopefully the province is not just paying us lip service and tell us in the end that none of the spaces on the Island qualify to hold the jury trials on the Island and that they are moving them over to Sudbury.”

Would moving the courts to Sudbury, “be a long term solution the province would be looking at after COVID-19?” asked Councillor Clark.  

“That was part of the discussion at the MMA meeting,” said Mayor Osborne. “That they will move in the pretext of it being because of the pandemic, and that it would end up being permanent.” 

“If someone local was picked for jury duty and would have to go to Sudbury on the same day this would be a hardship for anyone having to go through this,” said Councillor Clark. 

As was reported in last week’s edition of the Recorder, the Ministry of the Attorney General will explore and engage municipalities and First Nations on Manitoulin Island in an effort to find a suitable location to hold Superior Court jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Town of Gore Bay and the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre have confirmed they have been in conversation with the province about providing a venue for Superior Court of Justice jury trials on the Island.