Const. Ken MacDonald of the New Glasgow Regional Police Service said officers spotted the victim near the intersection of Forbes and Archimedes Streets on Saturday around 2:30 a.m.
"There's regular patrols in that particular area and officers that were assigned to the downtown noticed a gentleman that was lying on the ground and there was some people congregated around him," said MacDonald.
MacDonald said the 27-year-old man was taken to a nearby hospital and later airlifted to a hospital in Halifax in critical but stable condition.
Police have not released the name of the victim, but a member of his family identified him as Scott Jones.
Jason Cormier, the fiancee of Jones' sister, said he believes Jones was attacked because he is gay.
"I believe that. I do wholeheartedly," said Cormier in a phone interview Sunday.
MacDonald said there is no evidence that the attack was homophobic, but added that the investigation is ongoing.
"Our major crime and forensic identification unit members ... still continue to interview witnesses and analyze the evidence that we gathered at the scene," he said.
Cormier said Jones had been celebrating the opening of a friend's art gallery at a local bar on Friday evening. Cormier said Jones had told him that he noticed two men glaring at him during the night, but he didn't think anything of it.
Cormier said Jones told him he and his friends later left to go to another bar, but Jones and another man fell behind the group during the walk. He said Jones told him at that time the men from the previous bar approached the pair.
Cormier said one of the men stabbed Jones twice in the back and sliced his throat, adding that Jones' spinal cord was severed and he is now paralyzed from the waist down.
"He's being singled out, out of 20 people, to the point that the other gentleman who was walking up the street with him was left completely unharmed," said Cormier, who spoke with Jones in the hospital.
"The attacker whispered something in his ear as he stabbed him, and Scott does not remember what it was, but he completely felt the sense of hatred."
A 19-year-old man, who police have not named, was arrested without incident Saturday evening around 11 p.m. on High Street in nearby Trenton.
He's facing charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public.
The man is also accused of assaulting an 18-year-old woman with a weapon earlier that evening in a separate incident.
Cormier said Jones is a musician and a choir director in the community.
"He's one of the most gentle people you'd ever meet," said Cormier, pausing to compose himself.
Although he is paralyzed, Cormier said Jones remains positive about his future.
"Every time I go (to the hospital), I'm blown away with how positive he can be," said Cormier.
"It's a life-changing event, but he knows he'll be able to get through it."
MacDonald said the attack is highly unusual in the small community.
"This is a very rare occurrence," he said. "Traditionally this has been a very quiet township."
— By Aly Thomson in Halifax