GNWT renews contract for Yellowknife sobering centre with NWT Disabilities Council

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The NWT Disabilities Council has been awarded the contract to operate the Yellowknife Sobering and Day Centre.

With the announcement also came news that the long awaited good neighbour agreement has been signed.

After several months, a good neighbour agreement between the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA), the City of Yellowknife and neighbours has been signed. From the left, back: Terry Hawkins, chair of the NWT Disabilities Council; John Williston, neighbour and business owner; Bruce Valpy, publisher and CEO of Northern News Services, which owns the sobering centre building; Martin Goldney, deputy minister of Justice; and RCMP Insp. Alexandre Laporte.
Front, from the left: Sue Cullen, CEO of the NTHSSA; April Desjarlais, property owner and neighbour; and Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty
photo courtesy of NTHSSA.

“I want to recognize our partners and the group of neighbours who have dedicated much time, thought and advocacy to get us to this point,” stated Sue Cullen, CEO of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.

“Ensuring we build a partnership that allows us to collaborate and make improvements to this program is a critical factor in our success. This is important work and believe that as we continue to improve this program and layer on additional services we will continue to make a positive impact in the daily lives of some of our territory’s most vulnerable residents.”

The good neighbour agreement is an eight-page document which exists to “create a process of ongoing positive communication between all parties listed toward a harmonious approach to addressing both public and client needs with the goal of harm reduction,” among other things.

The sobering centre has sparked debate in the city over the past several months, with the owner of the neighbouring Finn Hansen building, April Desjarlais, detailing to city council the extent of how the centre has impacted downtown life.

She long expressed interest in getting a good neighbour agreement while many were critical of how long it took to strike the agreement or if the agreement is enforceable.

Initially, the agreement was supposed to be signed in June but was delayed.

The downtown area, and the sobering centre in particular, were hot-button issues for the recently passed territorial election.

The debate flared up again after Mark Poodlat, 36, died in hospital from injuries he sustained when he was assaulted outside the centre in September.

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