Yukon RCMP lay 1st ever manslaughter charge over opioid overdose

Jared Skookum, 32, has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a woman from Watson Lake, Yukon, last year. It's the first charge of its kind in the territory, which is experiencing the highest rate of drug poisoning deaths in the country.

Jared Skookum, 32, charged with manslaughter in the death of a Watson Lake woman

City street.
A raven flies over Whitehorse in February. For the first time, Yukon police have charged an alleged drug trafficker with manslaughter related to an opioid overdose. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

For the first time, Yukon police have charged an alleged drug trafficker with manslaughter related to an opioid overdose.

Jared Skookum, 32, already faced charges related to an investigation into Stephanie Pye's death in Whitehorse last April. That same month, he was charged for trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance.

Mug shot.
Jared Skookum has been charged with manslaughter. (Yukon RCMP)
In a news release Wednesday afternoon, Yukon RCMP said they'd arrested Skookum with an additional charge "directly in relation" to Pye's death.

"We recognize that a lengthy period of time has passed since Stephanie's passing, and we continue to share our condolences with the Stephanie's family and friends," the release said. 

"This investigation is complex and required a significant amount of time to progress to the point of supporting this charge."

The release states this is the first Yukon investigation into an opioid overdose death that's resulted in a manslaughter charge.

Similar charges have recent precedents in other jurisdictions. For instance, separate drug dealers have faced manslaughter charges related to overdoses in London, Ont., in the last two years.

Pye, originally from Watson Lake, was found dead by police in downtown Whitehorse on April 6. Investigators, in partnership with the Yukon Coroner's Service, later determined she'd died from an opioid overdose. She was 34 years old.

Yukon RCMP declined a CBC request to speak further about the charge. Const. Carlie McCann said police wouldn't provide comment while the matter's before the courts.

"One of our policing priorities in the territory is supporting a healthy and safer Yukon," Wednesday's news release reads, "and opioid enforcement and participation in harm reduction efforts is connected to this priority."

The release didn't say whether this marks a new policing approach to the territory's substance use emergency, which the territorial government officially declared last year. 

"We are committed to continuing our work with communities, partner agencies including harm reduction agencies, and with the Governments of Yukon, First Nations, and municipalities," RCMP said in the release.


Ethan Lang


Ethan Lang is a reporter for CBC North in Whitehorse. Previously, he covered the Yukon Legislative Assembly for the Whitehorse Star. He also wrote regularly for the Halifax Examiner in Nova Scotia before moving North, covering forestry and housing.