Hundreds of residents packed Yellowknife’s Chateau Nova hotel Monday for a jury selection that never happened.

The selection process, which drew a huge jury pool for an upcoming drug trial, saw would-be jurors filter into a large banquet hall – only to be told they’d have to do it all over again tomorrow.

The selection was derailed due to an interpreter being unavailable at the time.

One of the co-accused requires a Chipewyan interpreter for the trial. If those language rights aren’t met, then the trial, including the jury selection, can’t proceed.

Some potential jurors were heard expressing their frustration with the postponement.

Jury selection resumed at the Explorer Hotel on Tuesday.

The department of justice says two interpreters were made available.

“The department is concerned about the adjournment and the impact on those who attended jury selection (Monday),” stated director of Court Services Jeff Round in an email.

“We recognize that this presents an inconvenience to those who attended and will attend again (Tuesday).”

According to Round, the postponement will cost taxpayers $1,190 – that’s how much it cost the department to book another venue at the Explorer Hotel.

The department shelled out $350 to book the Nova rooms on Monday.

“There will be no additional cost for staff salaries as court staff are full-time staff who would have been assigned to the duration of the trial…” stated Round.

For the trial, which will see Vitaline Lafferty and her daughter Mary Anne tried on 2016 drug charges, 1,000 summons were issued, with 540 being served. One hundred and forty eight people have been excused, and 392 would-be jurors were expected to attend round-two of the selection process Tuesday.

No plan for former RCMP HQ site

A GNWT-owned building downtown – one of the original structures outiside of Old Town – will be demolished in six to eight months, but there are no firm plans from the GNWT on what will take its place.

“The GNWT has not yet finalized the plans for the site,” wrote department of infrastructure spokesperson Greg Hanna in an email last week.

The building, which currently sits boarded up and fenced off on 51 Street., stood as the Yellowknife RCMP headquarters for years, before housing a daycare centre. Built in 1947, building was one of the first to pop up in the city’s New Town neighborhood, which has suince become its downtown core.

News of its impending demise last month prompted calls from community members to save and preserve the storied structure as a historical site.

But the GNWT said they’d be moving ahead with the demolition, stating the site would be “utilized in the future for a new GNWT facility.”

It’s unclear when a plan for the site will be finalized.

Scammers have taken telephone fraud to ‘next level,’ warn RCMP

RCMP are urging residents to remain vigilant in light of an ongoing telephone scam that’s been taken to the “next level.”

In July, a person was called by a fraudster pretending to be a representative from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), stated an RCMP news release this week.

The scammer accused the victim of owing overdue taxes, demanding they purchase iTunes and Steam gift cards and that they disclose the serial numbers.

The victim was threatened with jail if they didn’t comply.

A loss of over $3,000 was reported to Behchoko RCMP.

Last month, police say a similar incident occurred. Yellowknife RCMP received a complaint from a person who had been contacted by the someone claiming to be from the CRA. The victim purchased $1,500 worth of Steam gift cards after being told they owed the agency money.

Steam is a popular online video game platform.

CRA scams in the territory aren’t new, but the string of recent reports mark the first time gift cards were requested and used to transfer money. That’s troubling to the RCMP.

“We are concerned that the fraudsters are changing their game so that they can prey on people who may not understand exactly what they are doing,” stated RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon in the news release.

“Tell your friends, neighbours, relatives, elders and children to make sure they are talking to the proper authorities on calls demanding money.”

Mounties are offering the following tips to avoid falling victim to fraud :

The CRA will never:

  • Use aggressive or threatening language.
  • Threaten arrest or to send police to your place of residence or employment

CRA does not accept payment by: prepaid credit cards or gift cards (such as iTunes, Google Play, etc.); E-Transfer/Digital currency (such as Bitcoin, Steam cards, etc.); wire Transfer (such as Western Union, Money Gram, etc.)

The CRA accepted payment methods are: online banking; debit card; pre-authorized debit; or credit card or Pay Pal through a third-party service provider.

Confirm the status of your tax accounts and verify whether the communication is really from the CRA by calling 1-800-959-8281 or by checking My Account at www.canada.ca/my-cra-account.

Police urge residents to contact their local RCMP detachment if they or a family member has been victimized by telephone fraud.

Judge stays on case despite challenge

Justice Shannon Smallwood, an NWT Supreme Court judge, will stay on a case despite a conflict of interest challenge.

In June, a jury found a 40-year-old Yellowknife man guilty on two counts of sexual assault, one count of assault and one count of uttering threats. Smallwood was the precising judge.

Yellowknifer isn’t naming the offender in order to protect the identity of the victim, who was his common-law partner at the time of the assaults.

The victim testified during the trial and regularly attended court proceedings.

The man has not yet been sentenced for the offences.

The man’s lawyer, Charles Davison, recently challenged his client’s conviction on the basis of a conflict of interest.

Following the man’s conviction, defence learned the victim and Smallwood are second cousins.

The defence asked Smallwood to recuse herself from the trial, and applied for a mistrial, and for the man to be freed until he could be tried again.

But in Supreme Court last week, Smallwood said she’d stay on the case, meaning she’ll be the one handing down the offender’s sentence.

Smallwood justified the decision by saying she had never met the woman, didn’t recognize her during the trial, and didn’t know they were related.

Davison can appeal the ruling, but it’s unclear whether he will at this time.

Smallwood is set to make a sentencing decision Sept. 26.

Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

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