Photo by Amanda Factor/Torontoist.
This morning, plans for a new Toronto West courthouse were officially announced, and the verdict is in: it is going to be impressive.
Attorney General Chris Bentley and Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Laurel Broten unveiled a map of the site where the courthouse is to be built, a currently barren piece of land near the intersections of Dundas Street West, Kipling Avenue, and Bloor Street West. Zoning permits still need to be finalized, and designs for the new facility are still in the works (sadly, a rendering was not available at time of press), but the plans described by Bentley and Broten paint a picture of a modern, accessible building that is green to boot—the building will be designed to achieve a LEED silver certification.
“Most of our existing courthouses have seen better days,” noted Bentley. “We need a courthouse that can meet the needs of citizens for the next twenty-five to thirty-five years.” Broten recalled her days as a young lawyer and remembered courthouses as being unwelcoming buildings. “You didn’t know where you were going, and you didn’t want to be there in the first place.” The new courthouse promises to accommodate the needs not only of the lawyers, legal aids, judges and others who might frequent it but also the individuals appearing in court who may be (it goes without saying) under a considerable amount of stress.
Various steps have been taken to make the facility accessible. Besides accessibility features for handicapped people, it will be located on the subway line. And once inside the building, guests should be able to find their way around easily. Last year, Bentley ran a contest called Sign Me Up for Justice, which invited law, paralegal, and design students to brainstorm creative ideas to help people navigate their way around a courthouse and reduce the confusion they may experience. A team of U of T students won the contest with their innovative design involving tactile prompts and GPS.
Roughly 25% of all criminal charges in Ontario are tried in Toronto’s 17 courts. With its twenty courtrooms, including two major criminal courts, the new courthouse will help ease the backlog experienced by other Toronto courts. Besides helping cases get through the courts sooner, it promises to help make being in court as pleasurable an experience as it could possibly be.