Witnesses who testified Tuesday at the inquest into the death of a Yellowknife woman shot by police described a woman struggling to make ends meet who had grown increasingly desperate in the weeks before her death.

Karen Lander was shot and killed in front of her home when she pointed a long-barreled firearm at police during a standoff in March 2012.


Karen Lander, 42, of Yellowknife, was shot and killed in front of her home during a standoff with RCMP in March 2012. (CBC)

Child protection and income support workers took the stand Tuesday about Lander's struggles to keep her two young boys.

In January 2011, Lander’s children were taken into care but social worker Arlene Lavoie-Stobbs said Lander did get her life back on track that year.

Lander attended a month-long treatment program in Hay River and by the fall she was sober. She was going to counselling, had connected with her church and had a support network.

From social services' point of view, things were going well. In mid-November Lander's kids moved back home.

But that didn't last long. RCMP were called to the home in January 2012, two months before Lander's death. Social services found out Lander had been drinking around her children.

Lander agreed to let them stay with a family friend. After that, she had 90-minute visits with her sons at the social services office, but the social workers say Lander continued to struggle with drinking and mental illness.

A week before the shooting, a temporary custody order was finalized, meaning the boys would stay in care for four months.

On top of this, Lander was struggling with finances. She had been on a waiting list for public housing for seven years.

Social services had been helping her pay for groceries, power bills and rent to ensure Lander could maintain a home for the boys, but she lost that support when her children were put into care.

At the same time, income support realized Lander had not told them about losing custody the previous year. Not only did she owe them $2,600 but her rental benefits were cut. That meant she was going be short about $800 dollars in rent that month and she wouldn't be able to afford her two-bedroom apartment.

Post-mortem exam found alcohol, drugs

A forensic pathologist testified Lander was shot four times, and would have only had a few minutes to live after being hit in the neck and chest.

A toxicologist also testified that a post-mortem exam showed Lander had a blood alcohol level about three times the legal limit for driving when she died. The toxicologist also found traces of cannabis, valium, as well as small amounts of an anti-psychosis drug.

He said that combination would have affected anyone's ability to understand and interact with their surroundings, even if they drank often.

The inquest continues Wednesday.