Inquest into 4 Whitehorse shelter deaths begins

An inquest into the deaths of four First Nations women who died at Whitehorse emergency shelter is now underway.

Cassandra Warville, 35, and Myranda Tizya-Charlie, 34, died at the shelter in January 2022. Josephine Elizabeth Hager, 38, and Darla Skookum, 52, died in early 2023.

All of the women were accessing services at the shelter at the time of their deaths.

Whitehorse Emergency Shelter
The Whitehorse Emergency Shelter in downtown Whitehorse. Photo Vincent Bonnay/APTN

Non-profit Connective and the Council of Yukon First Nations took over operation of the shelter from Yukon government in late 2022.

On Friday, Premier Ranj Pillai apologized on behalf of the government for the women’s deaths.

“Cassandra, Myranda, Josephine and Darla were seeking our help, and their lives still ended too soon. For this, we are deeply sorry,” he said.

Yukon’s coroner service said the point of an inquest is not to cast blame but to the determine the facts surrounding a person’s death.

It can also be used to make recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

Pillai said the government would be looking into those recommendations once they are released following the conclusion of the inquest, which is expected to take around three weeks to complete.

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