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Yukon coroner investigating 4 apparent substance use-related deaths over 4 days

People are dying amid a substance use health emergency in the Yukon
Flashing lights on a police car are shown in Philadelphia on Jan. 17, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Rourke)

Four deaths over four recent days that appear to be related to substance use are being investigated by the Yukon Coroner’s Service.

In an April 20 release, the coroner’s office states that all four deaths took place between April 15 and April 18.

The release indicates the deaths were unrelated but preventable.

“The Yukon Coroner’s Service is growing increasingly concerned with the progression of the substance use crisis,” chief coroner Heather Jones said in the release.

“The impact of the pain and grief of the families and friends of those who have lost their lives continues to be felt deeply. The heartbreak continues and these are wounds that never fully heal for those who are left behind.”

At this point, the Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three deaths since January to be substance-use involved, Jones said by email on April 20. She said another five deaths are “suspected” to be related to substance use, with four of these deaths having occurred since April 15.

Two people died in Whitehorse and two people died in Yukon communities since April 15, according to the release.

A death was reported in Watson Lake early on April 15, the second death was reported in Haines Junction later in the morning on April 15, the third death was reported in Whitehorse on the morning of April 16 and the fourth death was reported in Whitehorse in the evening of April 18.

Per the release, the investigations have included a full autopsy. Toxicological analysis is pending.

In each case, the circumstances suggest that substance use was a factor.

While the identities were not released, the deceased are described as both men and women between the ages of 27 and 52. Three of the deceased are members of Yukon First Nations.

The release urges Yukoners to be aware and take steps to address the urgency tied to alcohol and illicit drugs taking the lives of loved ones and causing irreparable harm to communities. It highlights the importance of ensuring safe, confidential and non-judgmental spaces and supports for people who use drugs.

“We continue to offer our sincere condolences and support to the families and communities who have been severely impacted by these deaths,” Jones said.

The Yukon government declared a territory-wide substance use health emergency in January 2022, with two First Nations — Carcross/Tagish First Nation in Carcross and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun in Mayo — declaring their own states of emergency related to substance use.

In 2021 and 2022, toxic illicit drugs killed 25 Yukoners each year, according to a previous release by the coroner.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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