Thompson court system has serious backlog
The justice system in the northern Manitoba city of Thompson is seriously backlogged, forcing many to wait months before they can see an end to their legal troubles.
Court delays are common in Thompson, located 739 kilometres north of Winnipeg, due in part to the geographical distance.
As well, a transient population in the city of nearly 13,000 means the courts are often overbooked, in anticipation of some people not showing up.
"Everybody shows up and they're ready to proceed. We can't do that. It's like double-booking," explained Tim Buzza, a lawyer in Thompson.
Young offender frustrated with wait
The backlog has created stress for one young offender who told CBC News he is still waiting for a sentence he expected months ago.
The teen, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was convicted of assault in the Thompson courts in May.
However, his pre-sentencing report was delayed, meaning his next court date won't be until January.
"It's frustrating because every time I see a cop, I think they're going to come up to me and throw me in jail," the teen said.
The closest jail to Thompson is in The Pas, about 300 kilometres southwest of Thompson.
The Manitoba government has no plans to build a jail in Thompson, but officials say a new pilot program is making it easier for lawyers there to speak privately with their clients in The Pas using a confidential teleconferencing system.
Officials said they hope the confidential phone lines will help reduce the delays.
Lac Brochet policing crisis continues
Meanwhile, a remote northern First Nation says it continues to deal with a policing crisis, as its band constables have not had access to RCMP facilities since the spring.
At the Northlands Denesuline reserve near Lac Brochet, those caught drinking in public are chained up in a hockey arena dressing room.
First Nation leaders say they are using the arena because Mounties, who are based in another community, refuse to let band members use the RCMP's local detention facility.
The band constables used to have access to the facility, but First Nation officials said they could no longer afford to certify its constables, so the RCMP took away the keys.
Northlands Chief Joe Antsanen said the the situation is only getting more dire, as winter approaches.
"When it's winter, we've got more of this alcohol and things coming to our community from other areas," he said.
"So, you know, we definitely need to get the cell block keys back."
The federal government, which funds the band constable program, says it is sending $43,000 to Lac Brochet this year alone.