First Nation in Yukon declares state of emergency following double homicide

The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun made the declaration on March 14.


Sign welcoming people to Mayo, Yukon. Photo: File

The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in Mayo, Yukon has declared a state of emergency after a double homicide.

The resolution, passed unanimously by chief and council on March 14, doesn’t talk about the homicide but refers to escalating violence and drug-related activity in the community.

It say the First Nation “is dealing with an opioid emergency that is terrorizing the public in Mayo, including citizens and families, with violence, crime, overdoses and death.”

It goes on to say “this emergency must be addressed immediately in order to protect the lives of (our citizens), ensure public safety and promote community wellness.”

APTN News has previously reported on how addictions and mental health issues are plaguing the community of 450 people located 400 km north of Whitehorse.

Double homicide

The resolution follows a double homicide that is believed to have taken place during the early hours of March 11.

Yukon RCMP say they were called to the C-6 subdivision in Mayo where they located the bodies of Ben Symington, 35, and Michael Bennett, 22.

Both men were from Whitehorse and had been shot. RCMP are continuing to investigate.

Karen Nicloux, a recovering addict and advocate for people struggling with addictions, said the deaths have left the community shaken.

“A lot of people are saying things like they’re not sleeping. They’re very nervous…A lot of people fear for their safety and well-being living there,” she said.

Wasn’t available

In a phone call with APTN, Chief Simon Mervyn wasn’t available to answer questions but said there is a “rumour mill” regarding the homicides.

Nicloux suspects the homicides are related to drug activity.

It’s so rampant and open in Mayo,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Nicloux said she’s lost count of how many lives have been lost to addictions over the years.

She said the killings are an indication of how serious the problem has become.

“It’s escalated in the last couple of years,” she noted.

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According to the resolution, the community will work in a coordinated manner with the territorial government, RCMP and village of Mayo. That will also include working together on an action plan.

The plan could lead to increased law enforcement, eviction of tenants suspected of being involved in illegal activities and checkstops to stop the distribution of opioids, the resolution said.

Nicloux agrees checkpoints are needed in the community, especially in the area of Stewart Crossing where the Silver Trail Highway leads into Mayo.

“That way anyone who leaves Mayo and tries to come right back, (will) be searched automatically or declined entrance,” she said.

Karen Nicloux says many people in the community of Mayo are struggling with addictions. Photo: Sara Connors/APTN News

The plan, among other things, proposes offering treatment to those who request it.

A final draft will be developed in consultation with citizens and other partners, and submitted for review at an upcoming general assembly.

Nicloux said the declaration is a step in the right direction.

She noted community members are eager to have more safety measures, like security cameras in public areas and safety officers.

She added its time for the community to heal.

“I want to see a healthy, happy community in general, and a drug-free environment…I want the people in Mayo to feel safe and secure.”

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