Yellowknifers bring chairs to post office sit-in

Dozens of people brought chairs and makeshift benches to Yellowknife's post office at lunch hour Wednesday in protest of the removal of city benches from the property.

Dozens attend lunch-hour protest against removal of benches

Yellowknifers bring chairs to post office sit-in 2:42

A Yellowknife teenager is taking a stand — or a seat, rather —- against a decision to remove benches from in front of the post office.

The post office corner is at the centre of Yellowknife's downtown and is often used as a gathering place.

Workers from the City of Yellowknife removed the benches earlier this week at the request of the building's owner, Denendeh Investments.

Denendeh says it received complaints from its tenants about people drinking, harassing employees and customers, and using the property as a washroom. It sent out a two-page news release Wednesday outlining its reasons for the benches' removal (Read the news release below).

But Summer Silke, 17, says she thinks removing the benches is cruel.

"I don't believe that they should have got them taken away," she says. "I believe that the homeless people in Yellowknife are being treated like animals, and no one deserves that."

Silke wrote her thoughts on a few lawn chairs and brought them to the post office Wednesday morning, along with water bottles and snacks. She said she received words of thanks, and she plans to be there again today. 

Sophie Thrasher, who is homeless, says the removal of the benches hurt.

Thrasher lives in a tent and says for more than a decade, she'd met friends at those benches each morning. 

"We're homeless, it's just like taking part of our house away," says Thrasher.

City councillor Linda Bussey says she was unaware city workers had removed the benches.

"I am getting lots of questions from residents. Do I agree? Absolutely not. I think this is a Band-Aid solution."

But Jean Gagnon says she understands the building's owners dilemma.

"There are sights that people don't want to see and that is of the street people on Main Street when you're trying to attract tourism, etc. That's not a welcoming sight."

Mayor Mark Heyck said in an email the removal of the benches was a temporary measure. He added the city has actively worked to address homelessness through partnering in the Bailey House and Betty House transitional housing facilities and as a funding partner in the homeless day shelter.