A Pelly Crossing man accused of running one of the busiest bootlegging operations in the community did not oppose an application in court July 13 to shut down his enterprise.
Richard Hager appeared briefly in the gallery of the Whitehorse courtroom where Yukon Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Duncan was scheduled to hear a petition filed by the Yukon’s director of public safety and investigations in June. However, he left before the hearing began, with his lawyer telling the Crown Hager did not wish to present any arguments.
That left Crown attorney Kelly McGill to lay out the director’s case for an order to shut down the illegal sale of alcohol at Hager’s home, and to allow for authorities to monitor for compliance, uncontested.
It was the fourth time in the history of the Yukon’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) legislation that the director has gone to court to seek an enforcement order.
McGill noted it was Selkirk First Nation, not Hager, that was named as the respondent to the petition since it owns the house in Jon Ra Subdivision that Hager has lived in for the past 14 years.
The First Nation worked with the (SCAN) unit on the case and supports the court action, she said, but doesn’t wish to displace Hager, which is among the reasons why the director didn’t ask, as it has in the past, for the order to require that the property be vacated.
However, Selkirk First Nation does have a “real concern” about the issue of bootlegging in the community and wants to bring attention to it, McGill said, and the order that is being requested shows a “measured approach” to the situation.
Should Hager not comply with the order, McGill said that charges could be laid against him under the Liquor Act. The director could also return to court to seek an outright closure of the property.
McGill described bootlegging as an “insidious” activity, one that’s hard to collect evidence about due to the fact that, like drug dealing, it exists because there’s a demand for the service.
Adding to the challenge in this case, McGill said, was the fact that Pelly Crossing is a small community, making it difficult for investigators to do covert surveillance.
However, she noted that unlike in other SCAN cases, the complainants did not chose to remain anonymous, with one of them, a community safety officer for Selkirk First Nation, even providing evidence on the bootlegging and bringing forward concerns from other community members.
The community evidence was also corroborated with evidence from liquor stores or off-sales in Whitehorse, Mayo and Carmacks, McGill said, whose staff had reported Hager buying large quantities of vodka.
The bootlegging, McGill noted, wasn’t a “one-off” situation, but an ongoing activity that she argued was negatively impacting the community. The alcohol, she said, was being sold at an “exorbitant” price, thereby exploiting vulnerable people, and the evidence also includes text messages asking Hager not to sell to certain community members because of their behaviour when intoxicated.
The effects of the bootlegging, McGill said, are being felt by the whole community.
Duncan is expected to give her decision on July 17.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org