The Yukon has 12 unsolved homicides.
After a year in which the Yukon counted the most homicides in nearly five decades, the territory’s over-stretched police force is getting some much-needed help in clearing a dozen unsolved homicides. 2017 was a bad year for the Yukon. There were eight murders and only two of them solved. Many of the 2017 unsolved homicides, involve First Nations victims. Greg Dawson, Wendy Carlick and Sarah MacIntosh to name a few. With the mounting pressure to conclude these cases and bring closure to the victims families, the Yukon Government is committing $442,000 per year for the next three years into solving outstanding homicides and missing persons cases.
Justice Minister Tracey McPhee (Riverdale South) rose on a Ministerial Statement Tuesday to outline the government’s plans. She told members of the Legislative Assembly that the three-person, full-time officers will be dedicated to the Historical Cases Unit. McPhee says not only will these officers be tasked with solving homicides, but also liaison with victim’s families. “The dedicated officers will investigate historic homicide cases and missing person cases as well as be available to support the Major Crimes Unit, if needed, when suspicious deaths occur. This unit will also be the liaison with families who are looking for support and closure with respect to these historic cases, including the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to liaise with victims’ families, Yukon First Nations, community groups and other partners.”
McPhee says the new officers will have a heavy workload. “There are currently 12 unsolved homicides that are the subject of ongoing investigations and we want these cases to be brought to conclusion. We want grieving families to be able to find answers and some peace and for those responsible to be held accountable. We have worked closely with the RCMP to craft a solution to provide the RCMP with meaningful resources of officers and funding to address unsolved historical cases.”
The Official Opposition Justice Critic Brad Cathers (Lake Laberge) says the Yukon Party supports the new initiative, but questions why the government was slow to respond. “We do welcome this investment in the RCMP and in fact the only criticism that we would offer is that the minister has been slow in acting in this area. We first raised the issue of the pressure placed on the RCMP with the minister in May of last year and I raised it again through a letter written in July, recognizing that because of the recent spike in the number of homicides, it is placing an unsustainable workload on the RCMP and its members.”
The new unit will be tasked with trying to solve the 11-year old cold case of the disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Angel Carlick. The teen was last seen in Whitehorse in May 2007. Her body was found in a residential subdivision north of the capital five and a half months later. While police will never admit the Angel Carlick investigation has gone cold, little is known about where the investigation stands.
For NDP leader Liz Hanson (Whitehorse Centre) solving outstanding homicides resonates with her, as her friend was murdered over 25 years ago at Craig Lake near Carcross. That case is still unsolved. “Each unresolved homicide — the sudden, violent death of a member of our small Yukon community — resonates deeply. Many of us are touched, whether it is directly or indirectly, in ways that we cannot or could not foresee. On a personal note — because these things are personal, Mr. Speaker — I hope the 12 unsolved homicides currently subject to ongoing investigation includes that of my friend and colleague who was murdered in her home near Crag Lake at the beginning of March 1992. Her name was Krystal Senyk.”
McPhee says upon becoming Justice Minister in December 2016, the amount and importance of solving outstanding homicides was one of the first things brought to her attention. “When I first became the Minister of Justice, one of the first issues I asked about was this. We met with and listened to many parties interested in community safety, including First Nation governments and families and friends of missing and murdered loved ones, and we worked closely with the RCMP to craft a Yukon solution.”
It is not known when the officers of the Historical Cases Unit will be on the job.
(Dan Jones March 6, 2018)