Cynthia Blackjack, seen here in a 2012 photo, died in 2013 after being medevaced from Carmacks. An inquest into her death is scheduled for January. (Facebook file)

Yukon coroner’s inquest on Cynthia Blackjack’s 2013 death scheduled for January

Blackjack, 31, died during a medevac from Carmacks to Whitehorse on Nov. 7, 2013.

A coroner’s inquest into the 2013 death of Cynthia Blackjack, a 31-year-old Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation citizen who died during a medevac from Carmacks to Whitehorse, has been scheduled for January 2020.

A lawyer representing the coroner for the inquest made the announcement in an email Sept. 27.

The inquest will take place over two weeks, from Jan. 20 to 31.

Peter Chisholm, the chief judge of the territorial court, has been appointed as a coroner for the inquest.

Blackjack died on Nov. 7, 2013, minutes before her medevac from Carmacks landed in Whitehorse. She had contacted the Carmacks health centre in the days leading up to her death complaining of dental pain, and the day before she died, gone to the centre in person, where she was tentatively diagnosed with alcohol-induced gastritis.

Centre staff told her to go to Whitehorse General Hospital but were unable to arrange transportation for her.

Blackjack’s friend called the health centre the morning of Nov. 7, 2013, to report that she was screaming in pain. Staff decided to medevac her to Whitehorse around 11 a.m., but Blackjack wasn’t airborne until nearly six hours later due to a series of mistakes and equipment issues.

Blackjack died on the flight just before 6 p.m.

Despite requests from Blackjack’s family and First Nation, Yukon’s chief coroner at the time, Kirsten Macdonald, refused to hold an inquest into Blackjack’s death, arguing that her office was not in a position to investigate issues like alleged systemic racism in healthcare.

That led to a lengthy legal battle, with Blackjack’s mother, Theresa, and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation taking the chief coroner to court. Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale ordered an inquest in March 2017, a decision upheld by the Yukon Court of Appeal in October 2018.

Theresa also launched a separate legal action against two Yukon government departments, the Carmacks health centre and medical staff, alleging that their negligence had led to her daughter’s death. That lawsuit was settled earlier this year.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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