Yellowknife renames 2 blocks Angel Street

Two downtown Yellowknife blocks are being renamed Angel Street to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Two downtown Yellowknife blocks are being renamed Angel Street to raise awareness of domestic violence, but those who are often in the area say more than a street sign is needed to address the issue.

City councillors voted earlier this week to rename a two-block section of 51st Street as Angel Street, in memory of victims of family violence.

The move follows similar street namings in Iqaluit, Regina and Fredericton. The idea began with Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik, who heard the name "Angel Street" in Lucie Idlout's song Lovely Irene, which deals with domestic violence.

Sheutiapik was so moved by the song that she gave the Angel Street name to the road leading to that city's women's shelter. She has since been lobbying other Canadian cities to adopt similar street names.

"There are things going on behind closed doors that people don't talk about, and maybe those issues will come out," Yellowknife city Coun. Amanda Mallon told CBC News on Tuesday.

"I know that in Iqaluit, the mayor's experience there has been that people are talking about the issue much more, and it's being talked about by people in all walks of life."

Street's location debated

Yellowknife city clerk Debbie Gillard said it will take at least two months until new Angel Street signs are produced and transported to the city.

Several months ago, councillors debated whether to bestow the Angel Street name onto 50th Street, commonly dubbed "Range Street," where two of the city's bars are located.

Dozens of residents, however, went onto the city's website and voted against renaming Yellowknife's most notorious street, which has long been associated with bar brawls and public drunkenness.

Mallon said the next street over, 51st Street, was considered a good compromise, because it is where the city's homeless day shelter and the Tree of Peace friendship centre are based.

At the homeless day shelter, some say more action, not just awareness, is needed to address domestic violence.

"It is talked about. It's widely acknowledged, and sadly enough, nothing is done. A lot of people see it as a non-issue, and that's sad," said Jason Racine, who was at the shelter on Tuesday.

More programs needed, some say

"It won't reflect any on people's opinion, the [street] name," Racine added. "It's not going to reflect any whatsoever on the goings-on in this entire area; I'm talking about the four square blocks around here."

Racine said the money Yellowknife will spend on street signs would be better spent on initiatives aimed at cutting down on alcohol use and abuse.

Day shelter volunteer Irene Catholique said in her 30 years living in Yellowknife, she has seen violence almost every day. While Catholique said she hopes Angel Street will provide people with a daily reminder about the issue, she does not believe it'll be enough to stop violence.

"They need more programs they could refer them to … like anger management. It's not happening right now," she said.

"I know there's programs out there that are trying to help people that have this anger or whatever it is inside them .… It'll be a miracle if it does happen."