Caribou Legs used his sister’s death for his own advantage: Yukon Supreme Court

A Gwich’in runner who championed the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous women made false domestic violence allegations to further his reputation, a judge ruled April 6.

A Gwich’in runner who championed the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous women made false domestic violence allegations to further his reputation, a judge ruled April 6.

Yukon Supreme Court deputy judge John Menzies ordered Brad Firth, known as Caribou Legs, to pay Raymond Gagnon $60,000 in damages for libelous statements Firth made.

During a cross-country tour to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women in 2016, Firth was quoted in 16 different news outlets accusing Gagnon of killing his partner, Firth’s sister.

“I don’t even know how he could say something like that,” said Gagnon outside the courtroom. “(Firth) used my wife, (and) her death, that’s what he did.”

Gagnon and Firth’s sister, Irene Korte, were married for about 20 years when Korte died in February 2015. Yukon’s Chief Coroner ruled the death accidental.

Firth never appeared in court or filed any sort of defence.

To this day Firth has maintained his comments, despite Yukon Supreme Court finding he defamed Gagnon.

Menzies found the defamation to be “a serious one.”

Not only did Firth make those accusations without any sort of evidence, but he made no attempt to contact Gagnon and used Korte’s death to “enhance his own credibility.”

“I don’t know how the allegations can be seen as anything but defamatory,” Menzies said.

What’s worse, the judge said, Firth played on a sensitive topic. Firth’s accusation that his brother-in-law, who is white, of killing his sister, a First Nation woman, had “extreme negative effects in (Gagnon’s) own community,” Menzies said.

“Defamation takes on a new scale in a day and age of the Internet,” Menzies said.

Firth also enjoys a large internet presence, unlike Gagnon.

“(Firth) used his internet persona and media soapbox to attack Gagnon,” Menzies said.

Menzies ordered Firth pay $45,000 in general damages, $10,000 in aggravated damages, and about $5,000 in legal costs, which Gagnon’s lawyer, Michelle Chan, requested.

The fact Firth repeated the libelous statements during 16 different interviews shows it wasn’t an error, Chan said.

Gagnon told reporters he was satisfied with the judgment.

He said Firth wasn’t close to his sister and hadn’t seen her in years. Firth, he said, never bothered talking to the police, the coroner, or calling him.

“I hope to hell he lets her rest,” Gagnon said.

But it might be difficult for Gagnon to get Firth to pay the settlement.

Firth has no fixed address and Gagnon’s lawyers had to resort to buying ads in a news paper` in Vancouver — where Firth was thought to live at the time the lawsuit was filed — and emailing Firth to serve him with the lawsuit.

But a judgment in the Yukon is valid for 10 years and can be renewed, said Jim Tucker, who also represented Gagnon.

“We will be there for a long time and we will be vigilant,” he said. “If we can find anything that can be used to satisfy the judgment, we will do that.”

When reached for comment, Firth maintained his libellous statements and made additional remarks, which the News chose not to publish.

On the day Menzies ordered the damages, Firth published a picture of himself on his Facebook page, writing, “I seek justice for Irene.”

Firth has about 27,000 followers on his Facebook page, and judging by the comments his post garnered, most seem unaware of the court decision.

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