Reindeer slaughter bound for court

Stella and Tim Gregory are suing the Yukon government. The former owners of the Northern Splendour Reindeer herd filed their claim last week,…

Stella and Tim Gregory are suing the Yukon government.

The former owners of the Northern Splendour Reindeer herd filed their claim last week, alleging damages for “unlawful appropriation” of the 56 reindeer and “interference with their economic interests,” according to Yukon Supreme Court documents.

The Gregorys are claiming that the “unlawful slaughter of the plaintiff’s reindeer herd, which was carried out in an inhumane manner such that it caused nervous shock and mental anguish to the plaintiff Stella Gregory.”

For several years the Gregorys struggled to pay for feed for the reindeer after the former Liberal government changed the wording of the Yukon Wildlife Act, making the sale or possession of wildlife illegal, they said.

The Gregorys wrestled with the territorial government, insisting it pay for the reindeer, as it paid more than $2 million for the privately held Yukon Game Farm, now known as the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

They threatened to release their animals into the wild. Environment officials took possession of the reindeer in March 2005 and kept them in a holding paddock near Mile 10 of the North Klondike Highway.

Three sickly-looking reindeer were culled, their tissues sent to a Saskatchewan laboratory for testing.

Then-Environment minister Peter Jenkins announced in April 2005 that the Gregorys were seeking $1.17 million in compensation for the herd, a number the Gregorys would not confirm.

In May, government officials received positive test results from the culled deer for Johne’s disease, an incurable wasting illness that inflames the lower intestines and cripples digestion, essentially starving the afflicted animal to death.

On the advice of several government biologists and with undocumented cabinet authorization, Environment officials slaughtered the entire herd, shooting 52 of the adult reindeer and bludgeoning four newborns to death.

“It was a tragedy and very disgusting, what the government did,” said Stella Gregory, who was present during the slaughter.

“It devastates us each and every day, for the animals’ sake,” said Gregory on Tuesday.

“The rest will be dealt with through the lawyers.”

Gregory wouldn’t say how much monetary compensation she is seeking.

The lawsuit names the Yukon government and the Environment minister as defendants.

But its not clear if the Environment minister in question would be Jenkins or Premier Dennis Fentie, who assumed the portfolio after he expelled Jenkins from caucus last November.

“Our issue has concluded and there is nothing else I can say on the matter until the courts have concluded their business,” said Fentie.

“I won’t be responding to (the lawsuit). That’s in the courts, that’s up to the justice system.

“Decisions were made by experts. The public always has the right to avail themselves of the justice system, and, in this case, the individuals in question have.”

Despite repeated assurances from government officials before the slaughter and a government-funded appraisal to determine the value of the herd, the Gregorys have never received any compensation for the reindeer.