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50 Street incident: ‘I felt her head hit the ground,’ says witness

Emergency services line up outside Yellowknife's day shelter and sobering centre on April 9, 2019
Emergency services line up outside Yellowknife's day shelter and sobering centre on April 9, 2019.

Emergency services closed off a section of Yellowknife’s 50 Street late on Tuesday afternoon, following an incident said to have left an Indigenous woman seriously injured.

April Desjarlais, who owns a 50 Street building adjacent to the city’s day shelter and sobering centre, told Cabin Radio she believes a woman was “assaulted, badly.”

Desjarlais said three men and a woman had been outside her office before she heard the sound of an individual hitting the ground.

Police later confirmed one man had been arrested and two people were taken to hospital with injuries believed not to be life-threatening.



Those involved were not publicly identified.

“I felt her head hit the concrete,” said Desjarlais, who added she did not witness the incident but did see the immediate aftermath, some of which is captured on video.

Desjarlais said the video shows with certainty a woman seriously hurt, adding she was “fairly certain” an assault had taken place. A man at the scene also appeared hurt from the footage, she added.

“I called the police instantly,” she said.



It was not possible to confirm the exact nature of the incident, which police said was “an altercation” involving several individuals.

RCMP said an investigation is ongoing.

Desjarlais recently presented to city councillors regarding what she says are serious issues on her building’s street, such as assaults on her tenants, threats, assaults in the street outside the building (including one incident which left a woman unconscious), and property damage.

She attributes those concerns to the arrival of the nearby day shelter at its new location last year. Her building lies between the day shelter and the downtown liquor store.

Desjarlais, who is Indigenous, says she has worked hard to help users of the day shelter with jobs and cash. However, she said, she and her tenants have suffered physical and mental abuse to the point where she is unsure how to cope.

An in-depth Cabin Radio report on the issue will follow later this month.

On Monday, the territorial government and the NWT Disabilities Council, which operates the facility, presented to city council to explain their view of the issues, and what can be done to solve the concerns Desjarlais has expressed.

“Health and Social Services presented to city council yesterday and painted a rosy picture,” said an emotional Desjarlais on Tuesday, “but [this is] another Indigenous female assaulted, badly.”