Three murders in Whitehorse, two of Indigenous women, has reopened old wounds
A First Nations community in Whitehorse is struggling to cope with their grief following the murders of two women, just as a national inquiry looking into high rates of violence against Indigenous women begins its work in the northern community.
“The tragedy has reopened old wounds in the community,” Doris Bill, chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, said at a press conference Tuesday. “There are now four unsolved murders directly affecting the community.”
“They were somebody’s mother, sister, father and brother.”
On April 19, the RCMP found the bodies of Wendy Margaret Carlick, 51, and Sarah Macintosh, 53. Their deaths are being investigated as a dual-homicide. Police are also treating the death of Greg Alvin Dawson, whose body was discovered in the Whitehorse neighbourhood of Riverdale just weeks earlier, as a murder.
Carlick was an advocate for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, having lost her own daughter in 2007. The murder of Angel Edna Carlick remains unsolved — the fourth case referred to by the chief.
“This tragedy demonstrates how necessary the inquiry is,” said Chief Bill, whose community lit a sacred fire on April 20th on a baseball diamond in the city. It burned for three nights and was extinguished on the fourth morning, as is custom, which allows the spirit to begin its journey to the spirit world.
“They were somebody’s mother, sister, father and brother — they mattered a great deal to our community,” said Chief Bill.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, at least 1,200 Indigenous women have either been murdered or gone missing since 1980, although advocates say the number is likely closer to 4,000.
The federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, which will hold its first public hearing in Whitehorse on May 29, has been criticized for keeping families in the dark about the process. Some fear that it will not delve sufficiently into the role that police negligence plays in the crisis.
The commission was holding sessions with families in Whitehorse earlier this month in order to gather thoughts on how the inquiry should conduct their investigations.
Carlick’s 19-year-old daughter, Angel Edna, was last seen alive in May, 2007, in Whitehorse.
Angel had just completed her high school diploma, a major milestone for the young woman who had abandoned a life of addiction on the street to turn her path around.
Her body was found the following November in a wooded area. Carlick had been receiving updates on her daughter’s case every year, in April, from the RCMP but there were rarely any new developments.
In an interview with CBC in 2016, Carlick said, “I want to know what happened and why.”
“I would be naive to suggest that everything is fine because it’s far from fine.”
Greg Dawson was also a member of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation. According to RCMP Inspector Archie Thompson, there is no reason to believe that these deaths indicate there is an immediate risk to the public and it is too early to indicate if there is a trend or shift in the increase of violence in Whitehorse. Investigations in the three deaths are still ongoing. The deaths of Carlick and MacIntosh are not believed to be related to the death of Dawson at this time and there’s no current evidence to relate the three deaths to the murder of Angel Carlick in 2007, according to the information provided to the RCMP by the major crime unit.
Still, the mayor of Whitehorse said the three deaths “obviously signals that there are some grave concerns in our society.”
“I would be naive to suggest that everything is fine because it’s far from fine,” Mayor Dan Curtis told VICE News.
Curtis says the city’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations have a special bond in the small town.
“There’s no real book on this to say how we can move forward. We really respect their culture and the fact that they’ve been here for thousands of years and they need our help right now,” Curtis said.
“It’s important to recognize that what has happened is unacceptable.”
Cover: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press