Details of the depth and desperation of the NWT’s illegal drug trade have emerged in a Yellowknife courtroom.
“Our market in Yellowknife is a very appealing one,” said territorial court Chief Judge Christine Gagnon, noting criminals come here to prey on vulnerable addicts.
“The courts must send a message that drug trafficking is strongly denounced up here. People come up here to make a fast turnaround – they sell drugs and they leave.”
Two men had a preliminary hearing Thursday following a raid by heavily armed police last year on two apartments within the Crestview Manor building on 52 Avenue.
Police seized 290 grams of crack cocaine, some packaged in half-gram baggies, along with firearms and nearly $16,000 in cash.
One man, 25-year-old Noel Adali Dopiti of Alberta, will face trial for trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime. He was on bail and last seen hopping into a cab to head back home to Red Deer.
A second man, Faisal Aden, 22, of Edmonton, pleaded guilty to trafficking and was sentenced to 33 months in prison, with one year’s probation to follow. With pre-trial custody that will mean he has 15 months left to serve.
However, Aden was on bail when he came to Yellowknife – his recognizance orders were found among the drugs.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte told the court Aden came to Canada as a young child with his family, fleeing violence in Sudan. After his mother’s sudden death in Saskatoon from medical issues when he was a teenager, a despondent Aden ended up on the streets and connecting with criminals.
Crown prosecutor Jeff Major-Hansford told the court while Aden was being arrested after the raid, his cell phone rang often. When police answered, they heard people offering to trade or pawn personal items for crack cocaine.
“Mr Aden was in the Northwest Territories solely for the purpose of trafficking narcotics,” said the prosecutor.
During sentencing, Aden apologized for his crimes and also gave an insider’s look at why many people in the North end up in jail.
“Being incarcerated in NSCC [North Slave Correctional Complex], I’ve seen how cocaine has affected individuals and families,” he said. “I just want to get on with my life.”
RCMP said two other people were found in the Crestview Manor apartment at the time of the raid.
A 24-year-old woman from Hay River was released without charge.
Andrew Roberts, 33, of British Columbia was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, three counts of careless use of a firearm, and other gun charges.
It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to those charges against the BC man, but Roberts was later arrested in the summer of 2018 in connection with the late-night armed robbery of the downtown Reddi Mart convenience store on January 3, 2018 – one month before being found in the Crestview Manor apartment during the raid.
Last month, Roberts – in custody during a pre-trial hearing on January 24 – was committed to stand trial for robbery with a firearm, disguise with intent, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, and carrying a concealed weapon.
He was charged in June 2018 regarding the Reddi Mart robbery, during which a cashier was forced to hand over money at gunpoint before the suspect ran off.
All evidence supporting the outstanding charges against Roberts and Adali Dopiti has yet to be tested at trial in court.