North

Clark sworn in as Yukon's top Mountie

Supt. Peter Clark was sworn in Thusday as the Yukon RCMP's commanding officer, amid ongoing controversy over deaths of people who had been in police custody.
Supt. Peter Clark said his priority is ensuring the safety of his officers and Yukon communities. ((CBC))
Supt. Peter Clark was sworn in Thursday as the Yukon RCMP's commanding officer, amid ongoing controversy over deaths of people who had been in police custody.

Clark was been acting commander of the RCMP's M Division for the past couple of months, but he officially assumed the job in a colourful handover ceremony Thursday at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse.

Clark said any changes under his command will be gradual and well thought out. His priority, he said, is to ensure everyone is safe.

"The people of the Yukon really want to have a close relationship with their force — it is Canada's and Yukon's police service," Clark said.

"We need to position our members to be successful, we need to train them, we need to [be] rigorous in keeping them safe and the community safe."

Clark takes over from outgoing Chief Supt. Barry Harvie, who is retiring and moving to Nova Scotia. Harvie has served a total of 32 years in the RCMP, including three years as the Yukon force's commander.

"It's kind of an emotional day. You know you think about it for years, but when it's finally there and it's actually happening, [there's] mixed emotions," Harvie said. "I've enjoyed 32 years and I'd do it all over again."

Public outcry

Supt. Peter Clark was sworn in as the Yukon RCMP's commanding officer in a handover ceremony Thursday at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse. ((Dave Croft/CBC))
Clark begins his term as commanding officer while public outcry continues to exist over the 2008 death of Raymond Silverfox, who died after spending 13 hours in Whitehorse RCMP cells.

A coroner's inquest in April revealed that officers and guards did not get medical attention for Silverfox, even though he was vomiting profusely at the time. Some officers and guards even mocked and jeered at Silverfox in his cell.

A number of groups, including the federal NDP and the Assembly of First Nations, are backing Silverfox's family's calls for a public inquiry.

The Yukon RCMP is also facing some criticism over the May 2 death of Robert Stone, who had been in Whitehorse RCMP custody for seven hours before he was taken to hospital, then transferred to a detoxification centre, where he later died.

Clark said if there are any morale problems within the police force, his officers will get through them.

"I'm very proud of the way that they're managing it. There's no doubt that there's concern within the ranks," he said.

"We're communicating with those people providing them with the support and information so that they know all the facts."

now