‘Highly charged’ school council election lands in Yukon court

A hotly contested school council election in Pelly Crossing made its way to a Whitehorse courtroom this morning, where a judge decided to reserve judgment on how to resolve irregularities in the vote officials say took place in ‘a highly charged atmosphere.’
Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing, Yukon. Election officials say a May 5 school council election was 'a highly charged atmosphere' with yelling and shouting directed at certain candidates. Now election officials are going to the courts for help to sort out irregularities. (Courtesy Eliza Van Bibber School)

A dispute over the school council election in Pelly Crossing, Yukon made its way to a Whitehorse courtroom this morning.

Six of the nine candidates travelled the 285 kilometres to the capital to give statements on what happened during the May 5 election. None would go on the record with CBC about what made the election so contentious.

Yukon’s Chief Electoral Officer, Brenda McCain Armour, sought the court’s help in sorting out irregularities in the vote.

According to affidavits filed in court, election officials say "there was tension, in and around the polling station all day."

It was the first Pelly school council election in over 20 years. In all that time, the six positions were routinely acclaimed, but last week, with nine candidates in the race, Pelly voters lined up before the polls even opened.     

Officials say it was "a highly charged atmosphere" with yelling and shouting directed at certain candidates.     

Police were called, but no charges laid.

During the vote, two separate individuals asked, and were given permission, to vote for a friend or relative who couldn't attend.

The election official in charge, Jean Van Bibber, learned only later that third party votes were illegal.

As it turned out, just one vote separated the fourth, fifth and sixth place candidates. The seventh place candidate was just two votes behind.

Jim Tredger is the MLA for Pelly and served, for years, as principal at Eliza Van Bibber school.

He says it's good to see people in Pelly Crossing taking an interest in their children's education.

"There's been quite a turnover in staffing over the years and I think the minister needs to be listening. Education is important and they just feel left out of the mix."

The Eliza Van Bibber school in Pelly Crossing has gone through seven principals in the last decade.

Last year, Keith Clarke was removed from his post without warning, causing consternation in the community.

Justice Leigh Gower has reserved his decision on what the remedy to the irregularities will be.

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