Alberta justice minister denies courtroom cuts; sources maintain tissues, water removed

Click to play video: 'Alberta Justice says it believes water and tissue info was ‘mistakenly shared’' Alberta Justice says it believes water and tissue info was ‘mistakenly shared’
WATCH: Alberta Justice officials now say there was a miscommunication with some courts when it comes to the availability of tissues and water in courtrooms. Jayme Doll explains. – Jan 23, 2020

Alberta Justice denies it ever gave a directive to remove tissues or water from courtrooms earlier this week but sources confirmed to Global News on Tuesday that these items would no longer be supplied.

READ MORE: Alberta Justice makes cuts forcing victims to bring own tissues, water to court

Sources said the move was made to reduce spending in the department, and were told anyone in a courtroom would be required to supply their own tissues and there would be a change to how water would be provided.

On Wednesday morning, the office of Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer issued a statement to Global News, saying: “Tissues will still be provided to witnesses and water to both witnesses and the judiciary. This has — and will not — change.

“Water coolers for lawyers will be removed from individual courtrooms and lawyers will be responsible for providing their own water or can have filtered water available in water fountains, in the kitchen and in break areas. Removing water coolers for lawyers in courtrooms will save Alberta Courts approximately $50,000.”

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LISTEN: Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer joins Danielle Smith to address reports that Alberta courts will not provide water or tissues.

Ian Savage, president of the Calgary-based Criminal Defence Lawyers Association, said Tuesday that the move by Alberta Justice court administration is ridiculous.

“There [are] budget cuts and there’s silliness, and this obviously falls into the line of silliness,” he said.

“The court system, like any other public system, has people coming into it that have basic human needs. Just like toilet paper, running water and soap in the washrooms of the courthouse, individuals that come to the courthouse to participate in the justice system — be it the lawyers, the judges or witnesses — need to drink water in order to carry on in a normal function.”

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LISTEN: Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer joins J’lyn Nye to discuss reports that court will not provide water or tissues.

Matthew Block, treasurer of the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association, said any cuts to court affect people who use the justice system.

“Little things start getting cut and some of these are going to have real impacts on victims,” he said.

READ MORE: A ‘broken’ system: Canadians can’t afford lawyers but don’t qualify for legal aid

Block said he thinks lawyers will be fine bringing their own water.

“There [are] water fountains. We can buy our own water,” he said. “Our concerns are always more about victims.”
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– With files from Global News’ Nancy Hixt

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