Old Crow residents concerned about return of person awaiting trial

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Old Crow residents concerned about return of person awaiting trial

The trial of Christopher Schafer will be held at the Whitehorse Courthouse.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation of Old Crow has declared a state of emergency to prevent one of its members, Christopher Schafer, a sex offender, from returning to the community to await trial.

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At 45, Christopher Schafer has been convicted of multiple violent sexual assaults and other assaults spanning over 20 years, including one at Old Crow in 1999.

He was recently charged with assault, forcible confinement and uttering threats in Whitehorse. The Yukon Territorial Court ordered him to await trial and he could return to Old Crow.

Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm says the court gave the community just one day's notice. I think, like many other people in our community, I was left speechless. Soon after, my heart sank because I knew there was going to be a lot of pain, pain for the family and across the community.

In order not to see Christopher Schafer return, the First Nation declared a state of emergency, forcing him to join the Whitehorse jail pending his court appearance on Tuesday.

According to Dana Tizya-Tramm, the court order is all the more hurtful since the First Nation had expressed its reluctance, a year ago, to see certain people with a criminal past reintegrate into the community. Turns out our voice has been neglected twice, our community has been neglected twice, he says.

There are still unresolved past traumas from this man's actions, and there has not been enough work done to treat and heal the community, First Nation Councilor Bonnie Bingham believes.

The First Nation's emergency measure prohibits anyone from assisting Christopher Schafer to reside at Old Crow, and those violating this rule will face a sentence of up to six months in prison.

The chief says a return would be worrying for the community, but also for Christopher Schafer. Suddenly throwing this individual into the middle of the community is not conducive to reintegration, he argues.

The Old Crow community, which numbers about 250 inhabitants, has only two RCMP officers, and no doctors or mental health professionals.

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