‘We have to keep on it’: Yukon community talks about death of Cynthia Blackjack and moving forward

Little Salmon Carmacks Chief Russell Blackjack has mixed feelings about the recommendations given at the inquest looking into the death of his cousin Cynthia Blackjack.

“It’s all a matter of the First Nations and the Governments to make sure it does work” to ensure an accidental death doesn’t happen again.

“It would be nice if it would prevent something like this from happening again, but I doubt it.”

In 2013, Blackjack died minutes before landing in Whitehorse after being medevaced from her community about two hours away.

On Jan 31, a panel of six jurors deemed the 2013 death of Cynthia Black an accident.

Hearings for the inquest were held in Carmacks and Whitehorse.

Jurors spent ten days listening to testimony from healthcare professionals that were on duty the day of Blackjacks death, and reviewing evidence including phone recordings and medical records.

Along with the verdict, the jurors provided the Yukon Government and the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation eight recommendations.

They included developing a curriculum on cultural safety specific to the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, and to have dedicated medical transport for Carmacks residents.

Russell Blackjack told APTN News that some of the recommendations have already been implemented and were unsuccessful.

“The place we put in place with YTG here had all good intentions but it just didn’t work out.

“What we didn’t pull into factor was people leaving.”

The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council still needs to review the recommendations for themselves before replying with their own recommendations.

APTN reached out to the Yukon government but nobody was available for comment.

An official statement was given by the cabinet spokesperson that stated, “the Cynthia Blackjack inquest was important for our territory and our government. We appreciate the work of all those involved in the inquest and will carefully review the findings.”

No timeline was ever given to implement the recommendations.

Chief Blackjack feels it will be up to his First Nation to start the process once the recommendations are reviewed.

“We as a people have to work through it and hopefully we can find a solution to it. I pray it doesn’t happen again”

Reporter / Whitehorse

Chris was born in Toronto but has lived all over Canada. He moved to the Yukon in 2009 where he lived and worked in Dawson City. Chris’s background is in radio broadcasting and he has worked with CFYT 106.9, CBC Yukon, and CHON FM as a host and show producer. Chris joined APTN News in May.