Brad Firth, often known as Caribou Legs, has been ordered to pay $60,000 to Raymond Gagnon, the partner of Firth’s late sister, for libelous statements he made, according to CBC North. During a cross-country run in 2016, in which Firth ran approximately 7,400 kilometres to St. John’s, N.L. from Vancouver, the Inuvik, N.W.T native stated to media that domestic violence “played a role” in his sister’s death.
The Yukon Supreme Court ruled last month that Firth had defamed Gagnon by spreading false accusations about his role in Irene Korte’s death. Gagnon was awarded $55,000 in damages plus an additional $5,000 in legal costs on April 6, according to CBC North. The Whitehorse Star writes that the Yukon’s chief coroner lists Korte’s death in February 2015 as “accidental,” stemming from an acute subdural hemorrhage, or bleeding around the brain.
Firth, a Gwich’in runner, ran across Canada in 2016 to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women and children. During that time, Firth took part in multiple interviews with media and spoke about Gagnon and Korte. Firth has a large Facebook following (27,000 likes on his page) and was often recognized for wearing face paint and traditional Gwich’in clothing while carrying a drum on his cross-country run.
Gagnon, per the Whitehorse Star, says that Firth had not spoken to him or Korte in “many years” and speculated that Firth’s motivation for saying the statements may have been to add “political credibility” to his run.
On March 12, Firth announced that he has plans to repeat his cross-Canada run, this time to “acknowledge and honor the residential school children who never went home and to honor survivors of residential school[s].” His most recent run of note came in mid-March when he covered the 200K distance between Hay River, N.W.T. and Yellowknife across frozen Great Slave Lake.
Firth never responded to the suit; he wrote in a Facebook post dated April 6 that he “seek[s] justice for Irene.”