Proposed shelter draws mixed views, appeal plans from Yellowknife businesses

Some businesses are opposing a shelter at a downtown building last used by Aurora Village, citing concerns for safety and impacts to their livelihood. But, a dental clinic in the area says it supports the location, and that it would provide an "essential service."

Application up for debate at upcoming city committee meeting

The territorial government wants to set up a temporary day shelter at 4709 Frankin Ave, which was most recently used by Aurora Village. (Graham Shishkov/CBC)

A pair of businesses say they've sent letters to city hall and the territorial government voicing concern about a proposed temporary day shelter in downtown Yellowknife. 

But one possible neighbour — a dental clinic on 48th Street — says it supports setting up such a facility on the corner at 4709 Franklin Avenue, a building most recently used by Aurora Village.

"The shelter provides an essential service that benefits peoples' lives, and that's the most important," said Amanda Lillis, a treatment coordinator at her family's business, Great Slave Dental Clinic, in a text to CBC News.

Health Minister Julie Green issued an open letter to the public last week, asking residents, businesses and city council to support the location and calling it an act of reconciliation. In it, she said, a single appeal, or rejection by city council, could stall its opening by months.

"Where it's located is not up to us, and therefore we support it," said Lillis. She also noted the clinic isn't as close to the location as some other businesses are, and she didn't want to dismiss the concerns of others. 

Restaurant staff debate quitting

The concerns of two businesses that are right beside the proposed location include safety of staff and patrons, and what kind of impact the shelter might have on people's "first impression" of Yellowknife.

Miko Wu, who is taking over as the new owner of the Red Apple Restaurant on Oct. 1, sent a letter to both levels of government voicing those worries.

Miko Wu is taking over as a new owner of The Red Apple restaurant in Yellowknife on Oct. 1, and is already hearing concerns from staff and patrons about the proposed day shelter location next door. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

"Some of our employees say they will … maybe quit their job, that's what they told me, because they worry about their safety," said Wu. "Customers say if the shelter opens here, maybe they will not come here anymore." 

Wu said the business has had its windows broken before, and the outgoing owner has had to pay out of pocket for repairs. She worries that kind of incident will happen more often. 

"It will have a very very big impact to us, to our business," she said. 

"We agreed to set up a shelter, but not in the downtown, not in the main street of Yellowknife … that's the first impression of our Yellowknife." 

In a follow up email, Wu told CBC News she would be appealing the process — and knows other businesses that plan to as well. 

The City of Yellowknife says it received a permit application for a temporary special care facility on Sept. 16. 

Because a special care facility is considered a conditionally permitted use, the application will be up for debate at a governance and priorities committee meeting this coming Monday, and council will formally vote on it on Oct. 4. If council signs off on it, staff will finalize the permit and then it will go through a two-week period in which anyone who says they'd be adversely impacted can file an appeal.

If an appeal is filed, a hearing would have to take place within 30 days, and a written decision has to be made within 60 days after the hearing is finished — meaning it could stall the shelter's opening by 90 days. 

'Emotional blackmail'

Edward Tse, manager of the Discovery Inn, also voiced concern about reviving the tourism industry with a shelter on the city's main strip. 

"What do you expect our tourists to see in the public, right in our major thoroughfare?" he said, pointing to issues of property damage, public urination and fighting near the currently-shuttered day shelter and sobering centre on 50th Street. 

He also said he's "very upset" Green raised the issue of residential schools in her letter. 

"It's the location that we are upset [about]. It's not what she's bringing up, the Canadian historical problem, that's emotional blackmail."

Tse said he's sent opposition letters to both city hall and Green.

The temporary day shelter is one of several projects aimed at providing services to those who are underhoused which are in flux in Yellowknife.

The Yellowknife Community Arena has been turned into a temporary day and overnight shelter following the closure of the combined day shelter and sobering centre amid an outbreak of COVID-19.

The territorial government is also working on building a new day shelter and sobering centre at 5019 51st Street


Liny Lamberink


Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She previously worked for CBC London as a reporter and newsreader. She can be reached at