Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang owns a stake in the Capital Hotel.
The Capital Hotel has a documented history of drug trafficking and use as late as July.
So is Lang in conflict with the Yukon Party government’s zero-tolerance drug policy?
Premier Dennis Fentie won’t say.
On Wednesday, The News reported the Capital’s long history of harbouring drug users and pedlars, as revealed by documents obtained through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and criminal court cases.
Lang — who is also responsible for Highways and Public Works, the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation — sits on the four-member board of directors of Whitehorse Cattle Company Ltd., which owns the Capital Hotel.
On Tuesday, Fentie would not say how the zero-tolerance policy applied to government ministers.
“That’s up to the legal system,” said Fentie, who at the time had not seen The News’ report on drugs in the Capital.
“Enforcement is enforcement. At the end of the day, I’m not an enforcement person; I’m not an RCMP officer. We leave those matters to those who have the skills and the capacity to do so.”
Fentie has noted his government is going to “increase and enhance enforcement,” as well as get “very tough on drug dealing and substance abuse, and those who perpetuate substance abuse.”
But on Thursday, after The News published a report on the Capital, Fentie flatly refused to say whether Lang’s ownership of a bar with a documented connection to cocaine and other drugs puts him at odds with the government’s “zero tolerance” policy.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” said Fentie.
Pressed, he suggested The News was making wrongheaded accusations.
“To me that means you’re saying ‘Aiding and abetting a criminal activity,’” he said. “We do not condone that, nor would we allow that to happen.”
Lang has refused several interview requests.
But during this week’s question periods he abstained from answering opposition questions about the government’s proposed outfitter land policy. Lang owns an outfitting company.
Acting on advice from Yukon conflicts commissioner David Jones, Lang won’t speak on the issue to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.
But the reasoning behind that potential conflict — created through Lang’s ownership of a company — apparently doesn’t apply to his stake in the Capital Hotel and the government’s “zero-tolerance” policy on drugs.
In July, a group of about 50 young people assembled in the Capital, crowded around a man who an anonymous source said was “a known cocaine dealer” and forced him to leave.
Today, the bar sports red signs proclaiming a zero-tolerance policy for people using and dealing drugs, and some security cameras have been installed. However, its reputation as a drug bar persists.
The vigilante group so startled territorial politicians that fighting substance abuse became a hot issue during October’s territorial election.
During that campaign the Yukon Party adopted its “zero-tolerance” on substance abuse and those who allow it to perpetuate.
“My government has stated that there will be zero tolerance for drug dealers,” read Fentie’s throne speech, delivered by Yukon Commissioner Geraldine Van Bibber on November 23.
“Our government has stated that there will be a zero tolerance for drug dealers and the enforcement provisions of the substance abuse action plan will be utilized to ensure drug houses are shut down in the Yukon and drug dealers are forced to leave the territory,” added Community Services minister Glenn Hart in his response to the throne speech on November 28.
The RCMP refused to say whether the Capital is a bar known to have connections to drugs.
But government documents obtained by The News chronicle several incidences involving both hard and soft drugs at the Capital.
Between 2003 and 2004, both the RCMP and Yukon Liquor Corporation inspectors found Capital patrons selling or consuming drugs like cocaine and marijuana in the bar, according to the documents.
And in addition to having drugs dealt by patrons, the Capital employed a cocaine dealer — and the management wanted to keep him after he was busted.
In 2003, Robert Bremner, the Capital’s head bartender at the time, sold undercover RCMP officers two-ounces of cocaine with a purity of between 75 and 88 per cent.
The sting operation on Bremner and two accomplices, Dustin Blackjack and Joel Cozens, started with officers buying an 8-ball of cocaine worth about $300 and went up to requests to buy nearly half a kilogram of cocaine with a street value of more than $24,000.
During his trial it was revealed Bremner bragged to the officers the ounces of coke he was selling “came right off the block” — indicating larger quantities were available.
“The Capital Hotel was clearly one of the places rightly targeted during that operation,” deputy judge Cunliffe Barnett noted when sentencing Bremner.
“Initially wanting to help out patrons in the Capital Hotel perhaps who were looking for small amounts of cocaine (Bremner) got involved more deeply as time went on,” eventually taking on the lead role, said Barnett at the time.
Before the sentencing, Bremner’s lawyer Dave St. Pierre submitted three reference letters from Capital employees testifying to Bremner’s character — from co-owner Maurice Byblow, former Capital lounge manager Jonas Smith and Lynda Loughrey, a waitress at the bar.
Byblow wrote that Bremner would be “severely missed” at the Capital if he were to be sentenced to prison, and in May 2004, even paid $3,000 to bail Bremner out of jail.
In his sentencing, Barnett noted that the Capital Hotel’s management, “thought about terminating his employment, but decided not to.”
While the Crown pushed for a sentence of three years in jail, on April 15, 2004, Barnett sentenced Bremner to one day in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, 200 hours of community service and nine months house arrest.
That sentence was later revoked after Bremner provided a urine sample that tested positive for cocaine.
While the more flagrant instances of drugs at the Capital have occurred in the past; in July, the group of vigilantes targeted the Capital in its fight to take down coke dealers.
It all happened peacefully, Byblow, an NDP MLA and former cabinet minister who represented Faro in the 1980s and early ‘90s, said in an interview July.
Byblow was in the bar during the vigilante swarming.
“They basically gave him a corridor to walk out, and he left,” he said at the time.
“Innocent people who aren’t doing coke are getting busted up by the coke dealers,” said the anonymous source, who was among the group.
“There’s been so much violence that a bunch of people said that it’s got to stop. Someone’s going to get killed.”
Byblow echoed the man’s concerns.
“The unfortunate part of that is that there has been growing violence,” he said of drugs in downtown Whitehorse.
Also listed on the Cattle Company’s board of directors are Byblow, Deborah Fulmer and Ken Eby.