Caribou Legs unrepentant despite defamation judgment over comments about sister's death

Caribou Legs unrepentant despite defamation judgment over comments about sister's death

Despite a judgment that says he defamed his brother-in-law, ultra-marathon runner Brad "Caribou Legs" Firth continues to cling to his version of the story of his sister's death, a version that's been rejected by Yukon's chief coroner, the RCMP and even Firth's family.

During a cross-country run to raise awareness of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, Firth told several news agencies, including CBC, that domestic violence played a role in his sister's death.

His late sister's husband, Raymond Gagnon, sued Firth for defamation, saying the accusations were a complete fabrication. Firth did not respond to the lawsuit and, earlier this month, Gagnon won a default judgment. The judge made no finding of facts in the case.

The judgment orders Firth to pay an unspecified amount of damages.

Gagnon says he has no idea what's motivating the allegations. He says Firth never once visited their home and his late wife, Irene Korte, hadn't heard from her brother in years.

"I didn't know the guy," he says.

"He doesn't even know me. He didn't even know Irene, to tell you the truth. He'd been gone out of her life for years and years, so where he got this information or why he believes that is beyond me."

Shortly after Firth made the remarks about Korte's death, another of his sisters, Eliza Firth, called CBC and said, emphatically, that Korte was not a victim of domestic violence. Eliza Firth said her brother's statements were very disturbing to the family.

Brad Firth admits he didn't speak with his sister Irene about the alleged abuse before she died or to Raymond Gagnon about the cause of her death. He says he's still looking for answers.

"I don't believe the coroner's report," he says. "I don't believe in the RCMP investigation. I'm not going to back down. I want a new investigation."

Firth said he was not surprised by the judgment — "In the history of all these cases, judges always seem to go against victims' rights."

"The coroner saying she fell down and hit her head repeatedly — what does that look like? When somebody falls down they hit their head once, not repeatedly. So what's that about?"

In her July 2015 report on Korte's death, the coroner did not say she fell and repeatedly hit her head, but that she had fallen repeatedly.

"In the days before her death Ms. Korte suffered several falls and was drowsy," wrote chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald.

"Ms. Korte told a neighbour she had fallen and hit her face. Around the same time, Ms. Korte also suffered another fall in which she struck the back of her head. In another incident, Ms. Korte rolled/fell off the sofa and had to be helped off the floor."

The coroner concluded that Korte died of an acute subdural hemorrhage — bleeding around the brain — after falling and hitting her head. The coroner said the side effects of an antidepressant she was taking, combined with alcohol, contributed to her falls.

Firth said he has spoken to Gagnon only once since Korte's death.