Caribou Legs loses defamation suit

A famous Gwich’in runner who championed the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls made false domestic violence accusations, Yukon Supreme Court has ruled.

A famous Gwich’in runner who championed the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls made false domestic violence accusations, Yukon Supreme Court has ruled.

In a March 2 default judgment the court found that Brad Firth, better known as Caribou Legs, defamed Raymond Gagnon when Firth claimed Gagnon murdered his partner, Firth’s sister.

Gagnon sued Firth in December 2016 and because Firth didn’t defend himself in court within the required timeframe, the court granted Gagnon a default judgment.

Yukon Supreme Court found 16 instances in which Firth publicly defamed Gagnon.

Some merely implied Gagnon killed Irene Korte, and in some he clearly accused Gagnon, without naming him, according to the judgment.

All of them were during interviews Firth gave to the media explaining that the death of his sister inspired him to run across the country to support MMIW.

The court ordered Firth to pay Gagnon general and punitive damages, as well as his legal costs.

Those costs haven’t been assessed yet, Gagnon’s lawyer, James Tucker, said.

Gagnon was emotional when reached by the News after learning of the default judgment.

“When I heard of the statements made by Brad Firth, it hurt me deeply,” he said.

Gagnon said he hardly knew Firth.

“I find it difficult to deal with the thought (that) my family or friends or even strangers might believe I caused her death.”

He also read out a statement he had prepared.

“I want the world to know that I loved Irene,” he said. “Her death was a terrible accident, and if you have heard that she died of domestic abuse at my hand, it is not true.”

Gagnon insisted that the judgment doesn’t reflect poorly on Firth’s cause.

“If Irene were still alive, she would be a supporter of the cause of murdered and missing Aboriginal women, and I am a supporter of that cause.”

In a message to the News, Firth said he wasn’t aware of the default judgment because he was “too busy running and advocating for victims’ rights.”

“In my defence, I wasn’t physically handed any lawsuit documents in person and frankly the decision has no bearing on my awareness running,” he said.

Because Tucker didn’t have an address to serve Firth, the Yukon Supreme Court allowed him to email the lawsuit to Firth.

The court also asked that Gagnon advertise the lawsuit in the Vancouver Sun — Firth was thought to be in Vancouver around the time the lawsuit was filed — in order to properly serve Firth.

Firth blamed the justice system, accusing it of ruling against victims and families.

“I’ll always run in memory of Irene and for those women who cannot speak,” he said. “My pounding footsteps scream out as their voices.”

When the lawsuit was filed, Firth said he planned to defend himself. He said at the time he was told his sister had bruises all over her torso when she was found dead.

He said he didn’t know Gagnon personally and that Korte never spoke about incidents of domestic violence.

Tucker said Firth never answered to the lawsuit.

While Gagnon was seeking an apology on top of monetary damages, Yukon Supreme Court only ordered the latter.

Tucker said he would likely contact websites still featuring the libellous interviews to have them scrubbed.

He acknowledged it would be difficult to make sure Firth complies with the order because he still doesn’t know his address.

“But we will do everything we can to see the order is given effect,” Tucker said.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read