Ottawa's courthouse is an interesting feature of Centretown, a place where events that are all in a day's work for some meet extraordinary happenings in the lives of others.
Criminal, civil family and small claims cases are all heard in the building, This means that significant and smaller cases all occur in the same location, and hundreds of judges, police officers, plaintiffs, Crown attorneys, defense lawyers, defendants, witnesses and others visit each day, joining an entire workforce of staff who are there on a daily basis.
The courthouse building was opened in 1986 specifically to bring all these people together; before the current building was finished, Ottawa's courts had been in a variety of locations spread across the city.
Today, the courthouse is hard to miss, looming large over the streetscape at the corner of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue. The building is an intimidating presence, tall and stone with rows of dark windows, located next to Ottawa City Hall.
The building feels much lighter inside, where a large atrium spanning seven of the building's nine floors creates a bright and open environment. Sound carries from the cafeteria at the atrium's base to the offices and waiting areas on the middle floors up to the darkened windows of the judges' offices on the upper floors.
Among these sounds are serious discussions between lawyers and their clients or whispered conversations between judges and staff, mixed in with laughter and everyday conversations of staff, passing greetings between familiar faces and the everyday bustle of a crowded workplace.
The courthouse is busy outside as well; journalists often wait by the entrances to stalk important sources who enter or leave the building, creating almost as much activity in front of this important Ottawa landmark as inside it.