By now you’ve heard that 4 of 7 Yellowknife city councillors shot down the GNWT’s application to use the Aurora Village building as a temporary day shelter for unhoused people. Totally uncool; winter is fast approaching.

Don’t forget, 90 per cent of the users are Indigenous. So, I say what a way to treat Indigenous people from all over the NWT, especially four days after Orange Shirt Day, which is now the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Do you know where government wants to put the shelter? No? It’s the old Legion building across from Coldwell Banker. Still don’t know where it is? Walk down main street to 48th street and look for a building with a huge tepee on top. Eschia!

For heaven’s sake, Minister Green over-ride those four councillors and declare a local state of emergency so you can use the building as an emergency shelter. And rest assured, it is an emergency.

Six people across the NWT have died from COVID, including at least one person experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife. And Yellowknife has had around 20 or more new cases a day for over a week.

In fact, on October 5th there were 38 new cases in Yellowknife and 34 on October 6th. And, the Chief Medical Officer says Yellowknife still has not reached its peak. Whoa.

Councillors who voted the shelter down say to look elsewhere. But, there’s no time to look at other buildings. The snow is starting to fly, and it is cold outside. People need a warm place to safely sit and to be able to use a bathroom-very important.

I would like to see those four councillors sit in front of the Post Office all day to see how it feels – not only being cold and damp, but not being able to use a bathroom.

The thing is, no matter where the government wants to put the shelter, there will be people for the location and people against it. Unless it’s out of town. Hahahaha! I’m just being facetious to prove my point.

But really, think about it. It’s a really good location. People already hang around that area and it’s close to other services for the users. For instance, the Salvation Army is just down the street. And it’s not too far to walk to the other shelter, if either one is full.

It’s deja vu all over again!

The current shelter on 50th street has been closed but has reopened recently. The problem is that there’s not enough space in there because people have to physically distance due to COVID, which people now realize is here to stay.

A similar situation occurred last year when the government applied to use the Mine Rescue Building for extra space for a temporary shelter before winter. The city refused to approve that request, as well.

Ultimately, the government moved unilaterally, declaring an emergency and used the building for a shelter for eight months. A business right next door to the temporary shelter said they had misgivings at the start, but it turned out alright.

This appears to be where we are headed again this year. Once again, a solution is urgently needed and once again the City has refused an application for a temporary shelter with related services. Boo.

The huge difference is that this time the pandemic has struck us with a vengeance. The GNWT declared a Covid-19 outbreak among the “underhoused and vulnerable population” who use shelters. And there are 266 active cases in Yellowknife alone.

“Fundamentally, they’re siding with the concerns of the businesses over the needs of the most vulnerable population in Yellowknife,” said Nick Sowsun, a founder of the Facebook group Concerned Yellowknife Residents for a Day Shelter Downtown.

I have to agree with Sowsun. Businesses in the area have almost universally spoken out against the shelter being in that location. And three of the four councillors who voted against the shelter are businesspeople.

It appears that one of those city councillors owns a barbershop across the street from the site that he voted against. If he does own that business, he should have declared a conflict of interest and not voted. Not cool, Mr. Barber.

After all, Robin Williams apparently declared a conflict and refused to vote because his business is …guess where?…across the street. Good for you Robin.

C’mon Cabinet, approve a declaration of local emergency so Minister Green can use the Aurora Village building for a temporary shelter. After all, one of the councillors appears to have had an interest in this decision and, if so, should not have voted.

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  1. The greater portion are indigenous. Here’s a thought – how about taking care of your own.
    To the GNWT: Please do not impost a shelter – that would be a knee jerk reaction.