Whitehorse Daily Star

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Chief Judge Peter Chisholm and Shelley Cuthbert

Decision pending on kennel’s former owner

The owner of the former Tagish kennel was in territorial court last Monday to defend herself against two charges related to the Environment Act.

By Gord Fortin on January 13, 2020

The owner of the former Tagish kennel was in territorial court last Monday to defend herself against two charges related to the Environment Act.

Shelley Cuthbert appeared before chief Judge Peter Chisholm. The charges stem from waste left on a piece of public land near kilometer 30 of the Atlin Road near Tarfu Creek.

Cuthbert had set up a camper and other shelters for herself and her dogs, after they all had to leave her Tagish residence due to a court order.

Her neighbours in Tagish had taken her to court over noise complaints. She lost the case and the subsequent appeal.

Cuthbert was on the land in question from mid-2018 to early 2019.

The Yukon government sought a court order to have her removed from the Tarfu Creek land – a request the court granted in early 2019.

Territorial Crown prosecutor Megan Seiling called one witness, natural resource officer Jason Colbert.

He said the government obtained a court order demanding that Cuthbert vacate the land by March 1, 2019. The deadline was extended twice, with her having to be out of the area and the land reclaimed by May 27, 2019.

He explained that the extensions were granted due to weather conditions. Road access to the site was difficult, and items were frozen to the ground.

“It was land access to the site,” Colbert told the court.

Colbert said he checked the site on May 28, 2019 and noted minimal progress. The government had to clean up the area in mid-July 2019.

He said a camper, numerous pallets, wire fencing, dog crates, tarps, tents and debris remained at the scene. He recognized all items as belonging to Cuthbert.

He added that he only saw Cuthbert and another person, who was helping her, using the land during that time.

Colbert estimated that the affected area was approximately 0.5 to one ha. He told the court he never once indicated, in any of their face-to-face meetings, letters or email correspondences that Cuthbert could just leave these items on the land.

Cuthbert, who represented herself, posed some questions to Colbert. She asked if he did an inspection to determine what belonged to her.

Colbert said there was no inspection of that nature before the court order. He clarified that he walked through the site with her in August 2018. He said a full inspection was done at that time.

Cuthbert asked Colbert if he ever told her she would have to complete a land reclamation. He said he did. She asked when that conversation happened. He could not remember.

She did not call any evidence in her defence.

Seiling argued that the Crown had met its burden; thus Cuthbert must be found guilty.

She said Cuthbert was clearly ordered to move all her items from the site. She added there is no evidence that someone else had left the items.

“Any suggestions that these items were not hers is unattainable and should not be taken seriously,” Seiling said.

She indicated that there is nothing in the record to demonstrate that the government would clean up the area. She pointed out that the government was patient in dealing with Cuthbert.

She argued that Cuthbert has to show that she took all reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence. This is as per case law regarding the defence on a strict liability offence.

She concluded that Cuthbert cannot claim she’d had a mistaken, honest belief that she did not have to clean up the site, as there is no evidence.

Cuthbert told the court she first arrived on the Tarfu Creek land on June 3, 2018. She said she felt there were holes in Colbert’s testimony.

“We have gaps,” Cuthbert said. “There are big gaps in this inspection report.”

She argued that Colbert never detailed what items belonged to her.

She took issue with the officer stating that either she or one other person was ever at the site. She felt he did not have enough information to make that conclusion.

“He hasn’t proven anything,” Cuthbert said.

It’s a public area, she added, and people are there all the time.

She alleges that no one in a position of authority ever told her she had to reclaim the land.

She argued that the court order instructed her to leave and vacate, not to clean up and return the land to a natural state.

She added that reclamation was not referenced in the court order either. She felt that she should have been informed of this to avoid going to court.

Responding, Seiling argued that the court order was irrelevant, as the charges are related to something else. She maintained that Cuthbert was liable for leaving these items, and that ignorance is not a defence.

Chisholm reserved his decision until Tuesday.

Comments (19)

Up 0 Down 0

drum on Jan 19, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Multi Million Dollar Companies walk away from clean-up which ends up costing Canadian Taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up their mess. Where is the justice in that? Leave Shelley alone. She loves dogs and takes in ones that nobody else wants.

Up 15 Down 6

vlad on Jan 17, 2020 at 11:23 am

Looking at her reddish swollen hands and weathered face, I feel sorry for the woman.
However, as you inquisitors say, the law must be upheld.

Up 17 Down 42

Joe on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:25 am

Taxpayers pay millions of dollars to clean up Faro's environmental disaster and that’s ok, let’s go after this lady for leaving garbage behind if that makes you feel better.

Up 40 Down 11

same old shelley on Jan 15, 2020 at 8:28 pm

The usual sociopathic BS. She knows what items belong to her, so clean up your mess. It's that simple. Charge her for littering. Some things never change.

Up 25 Down 14

Anie on Jan 15, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Settle down Gondi, your racism is showing. This country was established and made better by immigrants, people of courage who worked hard for a better life. Some Yukoners seem to have a silly notion that staying in one place all of your life, thereby giving them the ability to start every discussion with "I've lived here x number of years" somehow makes them more entitled than others. It's just dumb.

Up 40 Down 6

The difference is ignorance and complete lack of respect for the law on Jan 15, 2020 at 11:28 am

@Max Mack, you seem to think there is some sort of "witch hunt" organized against Shelly and that she is some sort of victim in all of this big bad bureaucracy, right?
Let's be honest she does not give a hoot about procedure, courts, bylaws or being a good neighbor. We can trace this behavior pattern all the way back to when she ruled the Humane Society Yukon, and drove it to the brink of bankruptcy and non existence.
Yet somehow people keep defending her actions. I find this odd. For those in need of a history lesson, here is a chronological order of Shelly's reign in the Yukon;

2012 - acting president responsible for this:

2012 - acting president:

2012 - overthrown:

2013 - fined:

2014 - starts her rescue in Tagish surrounded by residential properties:

2016 - about a dozen people on social media are adamant she has their dogs on property and she refuses all public; one takes her to court, two more had dogs returned by police:

2016 - locals attempt to close this down:

2017 - she loses:

Jan 2018 - she tries to avoid the court order:

Jan 2018 - she asks the court for more time and not to give them up:

Feb 2018 - says she has given up 10, the territory disagrees:

Feb 2018 - The shelter offers help:

April 2018 - she ignores the order:

May 2018 - says she will move aggressive dogs to tents for the summer:

June 2018 - she begins a suit for a million dollars:

June 2018 - says dogs will be gone:

October 2018 - updates:

February 2019 - Moves to private property:

Up 43 Down 6

Boyd Campbell on Jan 15, 2020 at 10:13 am

Max you nailed it. Everyone who leaves a mess should be responsible for cleaning it up including Cuthbert. However, this is not what happens in Yukon.

Up 49 Down 9

Mitch on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:33 am

Max Mack ever hear the term "Two wrongs don't make a right". Just because others have not been caught with the mess they made does not mean she should get away with it. If the others were caught, they too would have to face the consequences. If Cuthbert feels persecuted, maybe she needs to take a hard look at her behaviour and take some responsibility for her actions. I realize her intentions are good but she can't keep using that as an excuse to do what ever she wants.

Up 18 Down 62

gondi on Jan 14, 2020 at 7:48 pm

I also disagree with most posters.
Few facts: Cuthbert did take out majority of the stuff but ran out of time and resources to finish and the court order was to get out not to reclaim the land. She got out. Cuthbert takes care of her dogs at all times. Cuthbert had to leave her home that was bought and paid for. How is that fair??? Don't forget the area had 2 mushers also one with 70 dogs and another with 30 dogs. I bet nobody even truly knows her. Did anyone try to talk with her or just snub her off because she is not part of the cool group. I find it very disturbing that people claim this woman is crazy, mentally ill. Why would you say that - Because she cares for so many dogs and will fight for her beliefs? That is not crazy. The amount of dogs doesn't matter if are they cared for. Until you prove they are not, then you really need to move on.

Up 17 Down 80

Max Mack on Jan 14, 2020 at 2:37 pm

I disagree with most posters about this case. Cuthbert has done nothing that many trappers, outfitters, miners, fishermen, campers and squatters have done from the 1800s to present day in the Yukon. Yes - the law is the law but, as we have seen repeatedly in the Yukon, enforcement is highly preferential.

The difference is that this is Cuthbert. And, I suspect the judge will rule in favour of the bureaucrats once again.

Up 69 Down 8

Always the same song and dance on Jan 14, 2020 at 8:43 am

As much as I am happy that she takes care of all those dogs, you have to agree with the judge.
"She maintained that Cuthbert was liable for leaving these items, and that ignorance is not a defence."
You can't just rock up into the woods and leave a hectare of dog piss, sh*t, garbage and expect no one to bat an eye. I'm sorry but you would have more people's sympathy if you just showed some respect, be it for your neighbors or the land you just left in a state of disarray. Too bad there isn't a photo, I drove by the site in question on my way to a fishing trip a last year, it looked like a fenced in garbage dump.

Up 65 Down 11

My Opinion on Jan 13, 2020 at 9:38 pm

She will not learn until she is held accountable.

Up 54 Down 9

Rob on Jan 13, 2020 at 9:28 pm

I thought we were done with this! Apparently not.

Up 59 Down 9

Matthew on Jan 13, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Didn't think squatting was still a thing? Maybe 1 or 2 dogs and you'd still be there.. you can't play Ms.Dolittle and take in a bunch of dogs and set up a "shelter" on public land..

Up 76 Down 13

Yukoner on Jan 13, 2020 at 7:44 pm

This woman needs to just GO AWAY already. She has plagued the government, courts and TAXPAYERS for far too long.

Up 61 Down 7

Miles Epanhauser on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:06 pm

OK, I concede this is no longer a witch hunt and she did not clean up her mess.

Up 71 Down 10

Watson Lake resident on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:46 pm

So is she saying that she and her dogs can occupy a parcel of land anywhere she wants and she doesn't need to clean up after herself or the dogs? wow.
She should be ashamed of herself. I have been taught that if you go out on the land whatever you bring with you, you take out with you when you leave. Someone should teach her how to properly respect the Yukon Territory and its great lands.

Up 63 Down 12

Wes on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:40 pm

She can’t even clean up after herself. Why would anyone think she’s responsible enough to look after animals?
Hint, she’s not.

Up 58 Down 11

Davis on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:29 pm

Here we go again. This lady just can't keep herself out of the news..

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