Community leaders called for peace between families they say have been divided in tragedy. They made the plea during a vigil last night in Whitehorse.
People gathered to mourn Stallion Smarch, 19, of Whitehorse and Faith Jakesta, 18, of Watson Lake who were both killed this week in a collision.
Yukon’s coroner has not released the names of the two teenagers killed. However, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation made it a point to invite media to the vigil and relatives there agreed to share their stories for publication.
Family of man charged getting death threats
Five young people were riding in a car that crashed in the early morning hours of May 13 on Hamilton Boulevard. Two died and one has been medevaced out of Yukon.
The driver, 20-year-old Anthony Andre from Haines Junction, now faces three charges related to impaired driving.
At the vigil held outside the Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s potlatch house, elder Diane Smith said Andre’s family has been receiving death threats and abuse through social media.
She asked for that family to be allowed to grieve as well.
“It has to stop. We’re hurting. We need to forgive. We need to help that young person that’s hurting too. The ones that are sending death threats out there through Facebook, that has to stop,” Smith said.
The ones that are sending death threats out there through Facebook, that has to stop.– Diane Smith, elder
Gabriel Smarch, father of Stallion Smarch, held Smith’s shoulders to offer support.
“It’s not the way to heal,” he said of the threats.
‘Everyone needs help here’
Doris Bill, Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, said the event had been requested by young people in the community who wanted people to gather and light a fire.
“People are hurting right now and it’s coming out in many different ways. It’s coming out on social media, it’s coming out in the community and it’s coming out against each other. We need to come together — as a community — because we’re in this together. We can’t be throwing blame here and there, it’s not going to help,” he said.
Elder Judy Gingell called for different families to support each other.
“A lot of us were raised in residential school. We struggled with it every day. It’s taken us forever to learn the word to forgive. If you don’t forgive you walk around with a lot of anger and hate. It comes out through your actions. So we have to forgive,” she said.
The vigil was attended by chiefs from throughout Yukon as well as members of the RCMP, different churches and the mayor of Whitehorse.
Mary Battaja, an elder with the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, said the immense loss is being felt throughout Yukon.
“It’s really hard for us because we keep going to funerals and losing our young people, today more than ever,” she said. “Today I ask you, as an elder, to step forward and not to be afraid to help our young people. Don’t be afraid,” she said.
Battaja ended with a prayer for “the families, the community, the young people that have died and the young man that is in jail.”