After courthouse stabbing, Quebec prosecutors, constables call for more security
The Canadian PressNews
By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal
Organizations representing workers in the Quebec justice system called on the provincial government Thursday to increase security at courthouses.
The letter released by 10 groups is in response to a knife attack on Jan. 9 that seriously injured an interpreter at the courthouse in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal.
Alexandre Garces, 44, faces a number of charges including attempted murder, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon in connection with the attack on Hai Thach, 68.
The letter’s signatories want the government to implement a series of measures, such as installing permanent security checkpoints and hiring enough constables to staff them.
The call for action comes after the top judges of Quebec court and Quebec Superior Court wrote to the provincial justice and public security ministers Friday to express their own concerns about security in courthouses following the Longueuil attack.
That letter noted that Garces wasn’t due in court the day of the attack, that he had four knives on him and he did not know the victim. While police have not provided a motive, the letter from the judges states Garces was allegedly looking to go after someone connected to the justice system.
“We are concerned for the safety of employees, stakeholders, litigants, lawyers, victims, witnesses and judges who must appear in courthouses where there is no security apparatus to detect firearms or bladed weapons,” the letter said.
The judges also said the situation was urgent and called for permanent walk-through metal detectors be installed across the province, with portable ones used in the interim.
Currently, only certain Montreal-area courthouses have airport-style security in place with metal detectors and X-ray equipment. This week constables at the Longueuil courthouse started using hand-held metal detectors and digging through bags to screen visitors.
Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said through a spokesperson Thursday that studies are underway to add permanent metal detectors in some courthouses, including Longueuil.
The absence of special constables in all courtrooms was also a key concern identified by the chief justices, who noted that risks don’t only exist in criminal cases.
“Hearings in civil, family, mental health and care matters also present risks that should not be minimized or ignored,” the letter said.
On Thursday, Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said the province would significantly increase the number of special constables in training to fill the 110 current vacancies across the province. “To maintain a feeling of security in the courthouses, it was important to accelerate the pace,” Bonnardel said of the deal with the province’s police academy.
Among those who signed the letter are associations and unions representing Crown prosecutors, defence and legal aid lawyers, provincial government lawyers, special court constables and Quebec government staff.
“Everyone is highly concerned, and has been for several years, by the lack of adequate security in Quebec courthouses,” the association representing 800 Crown prosecutors in the province said in a statement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2024.
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