Reeve questions why court security staff has not been hired locally during pandemic

Questions why personnel being hired from Toronto

GORE BAY – A Western Manitoulin resident is perplexed as to why security staff at the Gore Bay courthouse were hired from the Toronto area and not locally to provide pre-screening services for those entering the courthouse building during the current pandemic, especially when the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Toronto area are significantly higher than on the Island.

“There have been court security guards in place stationed outside the courthouse since before Christmas who were brought in from Toronto,” said Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island. “My first question is ‘why are people being hired and brought in from Toronto, and not being hired locally’?” he said, noting his wife works in the courthouse. 

“Why are they bringing personnel in from Toronto, where they are having the most, or close to the highest, confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in the province?” said Reeve Hayden. “I understand the court security staff are brought from Toronto on a two-week rotation. They go back to Toronto for two weeks and then return to provide security here again at the court house for two weeks. Yes, it’s a concern, we are all being told to stay at home and in our region. Why would they send security personnel from Toronto? I’m sure they could hire local people to do this.”  

“Other husbands and wives whose partner work at the courthouse no doubt have some of the same concerns,” continued Reeve Hayden. “There is an increased risk locally to bring people up from southern Ontario to work here, especially when we are going through so many restrictions and lockdowns. No one wants to jeopardize the health of other people.” 

“When people from a high risk area are being brought in to work in an area with no current cases of COVID-19, everyone should be concerned,” said Reeve Hayden. 

Brian Gray, spokesman for the ministry of the attorney general (MAG), said in an email to the Recorder this past Monday, “the MAG is working closely with Infrastructure Ontario (IO), which manages the courthouse property on behalf of the government, to support Ontario’s courts and maintain the administration of justice during COVID-19.”

“The administration of justice is an essential service and additional security personnel have been identified as necessary to ensure everyone attending court is pre-screened before entering the courthouse and follows required COVID-19 safety protocols,” wrote Mr. Gray. “Anyone working at a courthouse must have proper security clearance and training. Local solutions for staffing are considered, however, a wider pool of resources from other locations is utilized when necessary.” 

“Security personnel have been reallocated to the Gore Bay courthouse from the Toronto area and are staying in Gore Bay,” continued Mr. Gray. “The staff are required to adhere to safety protocols, including daily pre-screening.” He added that, “MAG and IO are very appreciative of the work that all security guards, cleaning staff and other vendors are doing to support ongoing operations in buildings across the province.”