Whitehorse Daily Star

A litany of deaths

There have been five deaths of First Nations people in the Yukon after contact with the RCMP since 1999:

By Whitehorse Star on June 1, 2010

There have been five deaths of First Nations people in the Yukon after contact with the RCMP since 1999:

Robert Stone, 34, died May 2, 2010, in a detox centre 26 hours after he was released from Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

Stone had checked himself into a drug and alcohol treatment centre early that morning after a night spent being shuttled between the hospital and police cells.

Raymond Silverfox, 43, died of pneumonia on Dec. 2, 2008 after spending 13 hours in the custody of the Whitehorse RCMP.

Police and guards ridiculed Silverfox over a period of 13 hours before an ambulance was finally called after the man showed no vital signs.

Fred Stewart died of acute alcohol poisoning while in custody of the Whitehorse RCMP in March 2000.

Madeleine Henry died of complications from pneumonia after more than 12 hours in the custody of Whitehorse RCMP in June 2000.

John Tibbett Jr., 38, died while in the custody of Watson Lake RCMP in December 1999.

Comments (22)

Up 2 Down 0

francias pillman on Jun 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm

"The reason why addiction seems to be higher in those of FN's decent is that their geneology hasn't had nearly as much time to build up a tolerance."

That has to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

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Anonymous on Jun 9, 2010 at 7:19 am

Patty O,

You said it! Every race has suffered at one point in time.

I also find it biased for the "white" people to be viewed as those who destroyed the FN culture. I for one am Irish and German, last time I checked it was the British who came and took everything from them. Yet because I have pale skin I get to be included in that stereotype.

As for associating FN's with drunks, I find that just as disgusting. Keep in mind that people of European decent had 100 years of exposure to alcohol to build a tolerance. The reason why addiction seems to be higher in those of FN's decent is that their geneology hasn't had nearly as much time to build up a tolerance.

Anyways, I think everyone needs to stop crying over the past wrongs and start to learn how to tolerate and understand eachother.

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DG on Jun 9, 2010 at 2:59 am

Well put Patty O

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Patty O on Jun 8, 2010 at 3:53 am

Okay sure but the same thing happened to the Irish along with starvation and cultural genocide. Along came alcohol and gangs and whatnot. Then lots of relocating, starting over, seeking help. We are all God's creatures and we can all wake up tomorrow and decide to treat ourselves and others with respect. To focus on our gifts instead of hiding in the bottom of a bottle or twisting our mind with drugs.

If you want to remain a victim and continue to get drunk and stoned and then recite your mantra of "It's all his/her/their fault" then don't be surprised if that tired refrain gets no sympathy. Alcohol is socially acceptable but slurring, staggering, vomiting and passing out are not. Accept responsibility for your own choices and actions ie. grow up!

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whatever! on Jun 7, 2010 at 6:48 am

HEY ME: doubt the First Nations would have these problems if idiots like JC hadn't come and raped us of our culture and way of life.

Did you see JC do this? No, it was a man who happened to be WHITE,don't blame your problems on those of us who are frusterated with all the whinning!!!!!

All races have been robbed of their culture, not just FN! GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!!!

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ME on Jun 4, 2010 at 7:16 am

I doubt the First Nations would have these problems if idiots like JC hadn't come and raped us of our culture and way of life. Yes this was a long time ago but the effects of this still exist and getting our pride/culture/heritage back is not going to be an over night thing.

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Kailey Irwin on Jun 3, 2010 at 11:15 pm

soldierpiper and JC,

I find your biased comments disgusting. You should open your eyes and realize that not all FN's are addicts and criminals. Not to mention that they do not always complain. We have a many successful and hard working FN's persons in all of the communities and it's sad to see people such as yourselves supporting stereotypes.

After reading what his family had to say about him I would like to point out that Mr. Silverfox was not a drunk, he was celebrating his birthday and became too impared, that could happen to anyone of any ethnicity as alcohol is socially acceptable. I think you both need to show a little compassion.

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DG on Jun 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm

@ June Jackson

Poking fun and comments come at all levels of the workforce the cashiers in the store curse the customers that think they know everything, the office staff curse their boss for whatever reason etc etc.

Do you get my point, everyone does it to a certain extent. The fact that a they were recorded saying these things is minor, what is major is that the yukon has a drinking problem.

If Silverfox hadn't been drinking he would be with his daughter today. It is high time that the silverfox family get over themselves and start campaigning to deal with the real problem.

I would have done the same thing as these officers in that situation. Cursing is a form of coping mechanism. It is unlikely they meant harm to come to Silverfox.

Like they say Shit Happens

Up 0 Down 0

Jack Malone on Jun 3, 2010 at 8:43 am

Note to Whse Star - I am a bit frustrated that you have not posted my response to comments about my first post. This is an important dialogue and this dialogue cannot occur if you pick and choose which comments to post. I understand if abusive or insulting comments are not posted - but my post was a constructive response. What is your policy about posting comments?

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anon on Jun 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

concerned - WELL SAID!

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June Jackson on Jun 3, 2010 at 12:18 am

I agree with the other posters about the death of mr. silverfox.

The life style he chose put him there..

BUT, i think it is detestable that everyone guarding him couldn't just shut up. Do what you have to do as respectfully as possible.. and just shut up. Why the poking fun at him and the comments?

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soldierpiper on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Well First nations are complaining again,whats new.JC hit the nail on the head with his comment.

Up 1 Down 1

soldierpiper on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Well First nations are complaining again,whats new.

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Don McKenzie on Jun 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

It is beginning to look like more of the population is getting fed up with drunks who tie up the system, by being repeat offenders.

Up 2 Down 1

Fred Sullivan on Jun 2, 2010 at 2:04 am

Harley was in the process of choking the officer to death when the member shot him twice in the leg, Harley still wouldn't release him so the officer shot him in the head. That is not "in custody". That is defending oneself against being murdered while performing one's duty.

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DG on Jun 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

That's great I wonder how many persons of any other ethnicity have died.

This is BS, FN's people are always whining that the rest of the population treats them badly.

For myself, I treat drunks of any ethnicity the same way, same goes for the idiots who ask for my cart at Superstore.

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concerned on Jun 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Can't remain silent, too many snapshot comments or statments without back ground in these stories and comments.

I won't rebut the many erros in journalism and/or commentary in the comments sections. I will focus on this last report and comment.

Whitehouse was so full of coke that he was about to explode(forgot that little tidbit). Timmers had the upper hand in a back woods wrestling match after a high speed car and foot chase. I can say I have never been in a high speed car chase beacause I have never stolen a car while under the influence and then tried to outrun the RCMP. Timmers was armed. During the tussle Timmers had the members weapon in his control when the member was loosing consciouness and the member decided to choose his life over his perpetrator. Wonder what your choice would be... This member is out doing his job, tries to pull over a car that was identified as stolen and recognizes Harley. He pursues the cars in the best interest of the car owner and the community at large and what does he get...

None of the above were new to the system or new to their situation that led to the system.

Go and volunteer a night in cells, go on a ride along with the RCMP or ambulance, go walk 4th ave any evening repeatedly and tell me you would not notice a pattern and wonder how best to support those in need...

RCMP are not out looking to do harm, they are repeatedly met with the same characters under the influence.

Not sure on your world or experience with those under the influence but too often they are not making sense, they are causing harm to others, become aggressive and require some interaction.

Walk a mile in the shoes of the RCMP, ambulance attendants, detox attendants, not sure they signed up for their jos as young men/women thinking they would be faced with these pressures.

I am aware of the trauma and reasons these people drink and their trauma that has led them down this path. I am also aware that a person needs to take some responsibility for his/her choices and actions.

I have been pulled over for speeding, accepted my consequence and moved on. Sure I could have tried to outrun the police or even try to wrestle their weapon away or even worse been so drunk that when I ended up in the drunk tank required medical attention. I choose different routes.

The headline reads a litany of deaths. Instead of focusing on the deaths in RCMP custody, how about the tragedy of the amount of deaths( that far surpases those above), physical and sexual assualts, parentless children etc that are the direct effect of Yukoners that are on a path of self destruction and/or at the hands of these folks and others in their situations. What about the voice of the children of these individuals.

Lets focus on the real crisis. If Yukoners focused their time and energy in a proactive manner then perhaps there would be a considreable amount less need to become reactive.

My 02 cents.

Up 1 Down 1

Andrew McGee on Jun 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

Jack: Perhaps you should have done a little research prior to posting; however, I do agree the Star should have as well. John Tibbet died in the custody of Whitehorse RCMP, not Watson Lake. Fred Stewart died in Watson Lake. Clark Whitehouse did die after being stopped by the RCMP, but the copious amounts of cocaine he ingested while fleeing was the cause of death, not the taser. Harley Timmers...well, he was trying to kill an RCMP officer...so give your head a shake. While any death is tragic, each has to be looked at realistically. Given the lifestyles the majority of these people lived it's really no surprise they died in jail...they spent about half their lives there so it only stands to reason they had a fifty percent chance of dying there.

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Bend on Jun 1, 2010 at 9:48 am

Consider this: On average, there are 5000 prisoners detained each year by the RCMP in Yukon.

So, in the ten year period discussed in this article, that roughly equates to 50,000 persons held in custody or one death for every 10,000 persons detained.

While I agree that even one death in custody is too many, I would argue that it is an inevitability given the high risk and marginal lifestyle a great number of these individuals lead.

Speaking from a purely anecdotal perspective, I would further suggest that the number of persons (first nations and otherwise) who are alive today as the direct result of police intervention is significantly greater than five.

I know it has been stated in other forums and at other times but I feel my last point is worth reiterating. The RCMP are not parents, social workers nor are they medical professionals. The RCMP are however, the only front line workers who do not have the luxury of refusing service to those in need. It will take the entire community working in cooperation to address the underlying issues that lead to negative police/public interactions.

Up 2 Down 1

Thomas Brewer on Jun 1, 2010 at 9:32 am

@Jack Malone umm actually Harley Timmers was in the process of choking out a cop from behind (he was no small fella), and continued to do so even after the officer was able to shoot him in the leg - the blind second shot which caught Timmers on the forehead ended the fight. To say Timmers wasn't even armed does the officer involved an injustice. Timmers earned his fate.

Anyways it seems like it's less than one a year, and considering the frequency and condition of those that are ending up in police custody (the uber drunk) that's probably not an abnormal statistic.

Up 1 Down 1

JC on Jun 1, 2010 at 8:59 am

Does anybody think that maybe the FN are responsible for their own problems? Just a thought. I'm sure, I will be branded a racist for this comment. But then hey, being white, what else can I be. By the way, I knew some of these mentioned.

Up 1 Down 2

Jack Malone on Jun 1, 2010 at 8:04 am

I point out that Clark Whitehouse (a citizen of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in) was taser by a RCMP officer after being stopped for a traffic violation in 2003 and died. Harley Timmers was shot to death in 1998 by a Whse RCMP. Neither Whitehouse nor Timmers were armed (not even a stapler). Both were deemed to be in the custody of the RCMP and, as a result, coroner's inquests were held. C'mon Whse Star - do a little bit of digging.

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