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Opposition parties criticize lack of communication from RCMP, government following alleged armed break and enter in Whitehorse’s Whistle Bend

RCMP seek public’s help in identifying alleged break-and-enter suspect, who has not yet been arrested
RCMP is seeking the public’s help to identify a suspect in a break and enter. (Supplied/RCMP)

The Yukon’s opposition parties are criticizing RCMP and the Yukon government for a “complete absence” of communication with the public in the hours after police were called to a report of what appeared to be an armed break and enter in Whitehorse’s Whistle Bend neighbourhood.

Images, video and speculation of the purported break and enter started circulating on social media shortly after police said the report was made, but police didn’t release any information to the public until nearly four hours later.

Now Whitehorse RCMP is asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspect in the alleged break and enter.

In an April 12 press release, RCMP said at approximately 2:30 p.m., police received a call of a break and enter in progress in the Whistle Bend neighbourhood. The caller reported seeing on home surveillance cameras a person who appeared to be carrying a weapon and attempting to enter a home.

In the release, RCMP said police immediately attended the area. According to police, the officers on scene determined that the person left the home while police were on their way to the neighbourhood.

In an email update late on April 13, RCMP said uniformed and plain clothes officers went to the area to “ensure public safety.”

“Within minutes of the response, police obtained evidence indicating that the suspect had left the residence and there was not an active threat to the general public,” reads the update.

“Responding officers established perimeters and roadblocks and updated individuals in the area, while police searched the area for the suspect.”

Police said the press release was intended to inform the public that police are investigating and to request witnesses. Police did not directly respond to the News’ questions about why information didn’t go out sooner and why no alerts were issued.

No arrests have been made and the investigation continues, according to RCMP.

In the release, police said they appreciated cooperation from the public as some roads in Whistle Bend were temporarily closed.

In question period in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on the afternoon April 13, Yvonne Clarke, the Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre, a riding that includes Whistle Bend, demanded accountability from the Yukon government that she said was prompted by “several constituents” raising concerns and questions to her.

Her first question related to school buses and children returning from school.

“Many people were blocked from accessing the community and were denied access to their homes because of apparent danger. Despite this, school buses were still able to drop off kids in Whistle Bend,” she said.

“Can the government explain why kids were able to get off the school bus in Whistle Bend and walk home during this incident while some adults were denied access to the neighbourhood and their homes?”

Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee did not directly answer the question, citing the ongoing investigation. She said she had not been provided with details on the investigation and urged Yukoners to avoid speculation.

“Do we recognize it as an extremely serious situation here in our territory? Absolutely. Do we recognize it as a matter that is squarely in the hands of the Yukon RCMP? Absolutely. Their job is to keep our community safe. They have demonstrated their ability to do so on many occasions in the last year and beyond that,” she said.

“On more than one occasion, they have put themselves in harm’s way to protect Yukoners. I think they should be able to continue their investigation, and ultimately, they have been very strong in making public statements about their work, when they are able to do so, and I expect they will do the same now.”

Clarke turned to her next question on communications.

“The fact is that yesterday’s incident took place on a residential street when children were returning from school. There was no official communication, which meant that the public’s only source of information was the rumour mill and citizens’ posts on social media,” she said.

“This is concerning. Can the government explain the lack of communication to residents of Whistle Bend during this incident?”

Premier Ranj Pillai said the government is still trying to figure out when information flowed out to the public and what protocols were followed in what he described as a “pretty brazen situation.”

Next, Clarke asked about alerts.

“Many people in Whistle Bend community found the lack of official communication about the incident worrying and unacceptable. Some have asked about the possibility of using broad outreach tools such as alerts sent directly to people’s phones,” she said.

“Can the government tell us when they use direct-to-phone alerts and whether such an alert was considered in this situation where a person armed with a gun was being pursued by the police in a residential neighbourhood?”

The premier pledged to return to the assembly with accurate information.

“I think that we will have a chance to come back to the house and to the member opposite on some of the pieces and the protocol — the timing and some of the things that were undertaken — because, as was stated by the member opposite, we are all aware of some sort of the hearsay on what has played out, but I want to ensure that the information that’s brought back to the house is accurate,” he said.

“We will make sure we have that in place as soon as we have those conversations further with the RCMP.”

Following question period, McPhee told reporters in the cabinet office that she feels informed about RCMP operations.

“I think the situation in Whistle Bend yesterday was extremely serious. It, luckily at this point, has not had any tragic consequences. I am responding by my way of making sure the RCMP have our support, that they are permitted to do their work,” she said.

“I know it was a very scary situation.”

McPhee avoided making any conclusions about whether the response to the Whistle Bend situation demonstrated lessons were learned from the mass casualty commission’s final report on the RCMP’s response to a massacre that left 22 people dead Truro, Nova Scotia — a place that she said she is originally from.

“I think the lessons have been well laid out in the recommendations of that report, and if we don’t learn them, and the RCMP doesn’t learn them, then it’s at our peril,” she said.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon and Yukon NDP Leader Kate White each made it clear that it appeared lessons hadn’t been learned and the lack of communication from officials was unacceptable to them.

“I think a lot of people are also indicating to us that they don’t find that acceptable,” Dixon said.

“They need to hear something — even if it’s a limited amount of communication that something’s going on, and they’ve got it handled — that’s enough for people, I think, but just a complete absence of communications is unacceptable.”

White said communication is key.

“People didn’t know what was going on, and that was frightening, right?” she said.

Investigators with the Whitehorse RCMP detachment are seeking to identify the suspect.

Police released a photo of the suspect in the April 12 release.

The person is described as approximately 5’8 to 5’10 tall with an average build, according to police. Police said at the time of the incident, the person is described as wearing a black or dark brown sweater with white writing on the sleeve, a black face mask and dark sunglasses, a dark hat or hood, and yellow gloves.

The hat/hood is obscuring any further physical descriptors, police said.

Police are aware that a photo of the suspect is circulating on social media, including what appears to be a weapon.

Police are advising the public not to approach or confront the suspect.

Anyone with information is asked to call Whitehorse RCMP at 867-667-5555. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers via phone at 867-667-6715 or online at

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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