An overview of Pelly Crossing in August 2018. The Yukon’s director of public safety and investigations, Jeff Simons, has filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court on June 15 requesting an order to stop the illegal sale of liquor at 14 Jon Ra Subdivision, a home owned by Selkirk First Nation and occupied by Richard Hager. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)

Yukon SCAN unit director goes to court to shut down alleged Pelly Crossing bootlegger

The Yukon’s director of public safety and investigations has turned to the courts in an effort to shut down “one of the busiest bootleggers” in Pelly Crossing.

The director, Jeff Simons, filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court on June 15 requesting an order to stop the illegal sale of liquor at 14 Jon Ra Subdivision, a home owned by Selkirk First Nation and occupied by Richard Hager.

The 12-month-long community safety order, should it be granted, would prohibit Hager and anyone else from “causing, contributing to, permitting, or acquiescing” in bootlegging starting the day after Selkirk First Nation is served with it.

The First Nation would be required to “do everything reasonably possible to prevent the activities from continuing or reoccurring,” with peace officers allowed to enforce the order and the director “or his agents” allowed to monitor the property for compliance.

The petition, filed has the support of Selkirk First Nation, comes after a months-long investigation by the territory’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit.

According to the petition as well as affidavits filed in support of it, the SCAN unit has received 17 complaints since October 2018 about bootlegging in Pelly Crossing, which, while not a dry community, does not have any licenced liquor establishments.

Two of the complaints were about Hager bootlegging from his home, with the property also being the subject of several calls to police for “alcohol, drugs and/or violence” issues.

SCAN unit investigators monitored Hager from November 2019 and April 2020, according to the petition, and found that despite a warning they issued to Hager in January 2019, he “continues to use the property for the illegal sale of liquor.”

The warning, according to an affidavit, “did not appear to have deterred Mr. Hager and he is still one of the busiest bootleggers in town,” apparently even ramping up his operations in early April.

Investigators’ affidavits allege that Hager is primarily buying Smirnoff vodka from liquor stores or off-sales in Whitehorse, Carmacks and Mayo, then re-bottling it into smaller containers and selling them in Pelly at “exorbitant” mark-ups— $50 for 750 mL, and $25 for 325 mL.

One investigator who travelled to Pelly in January 2019 said in his affidavit that he spoke to an elder who “reported that she buys liquor (illegally) from Richard Hager, while another detailed complaints from both a Pelly resident and a Selkirk First Nation community safety officer.

The safety officer, according to an affidavit, at one point found a cell phone that appeared to belong to Hager with “numerous text message requests from members of the community … to buy liquor” from him.

Hager both appears to be selling liquor from his home, the affidavits allege, and delivering liquor to buyers around town, and his address is “well-known in Pelly Crossing as a place to obtain liquor illegally.”

Besides being illegal and having an adverse effect on the community, particularly on vulnerable people, the activity is particularly concerning in light of COVID-19 as Hager doesn’t appear to be respecting physical distancing measures, one affidavit alleges, and is frequently travelling between communities in order to buy liquor.

“Bootlegging by its very natures negatively affects the health, safety, and security of a community and neighbourhood, and the people living there,” investigator Kurt Bringsli wrote in his affidavit. It is an illegal activity and attracts to the community and neighbourhood other people who engage in related unlawful activity, including property offences and violence.”

Bringsli also wrote that bootlegging “exploits vulnerable members of the community,” including elders, underage residents and people with addictions, noting that “women and girls are particularly at risk to exchange sexual favours for liquor.”

In an emailed statement, Selkirk First Nation Chief Darian Isaac said that one of the key points in the First Nation’s community safety plan is to “reduce bootlegging and drug trafficking in our community,” and that it signed a protocol with SCAN last year to “help us with this particular issue.”

“With the support of our Citizens and community, we are making Pelly Crossing safer,” the statement says.

Hager did not respond to either a voicemail or Facebook message from the News.

The petition is requesting the application for the order be heard “on short notice.”

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

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