Yukon Party wants 3rd-party investigation on Hidden Valley abuse case, some parents call for resignations
Leader Currie Dixon says the government can't be relied on to investigate itself
The Yukon Party is calling for an independent investigation into the education department's handling of a sexual abuse case at Whitehorse's Hidden Valley Elementary School, saying the government cannot be trusted to review itself.
Meanwhile, two Hidden Valley parents say they're still seeking accountability from the department, with one saying a growing number of parents want the resignations of high-ranking education officials — including the former minister.
Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon said in an interview Sept. 28 that his party has had "serious questions about the conduct of the government" regarding the situation, and even more so after CBC News reported a briefing note was prepared for then-education minister Tracy McPhee in March 2020.
The note outlined the criminal proceedings against now-former Hidden Valley educational assistant William Auclair-Bellemare, who was arrested in 2019 for sexually abusing a student in his care.
"[The documents] demonstrate that this went right to the top of the department, including the minister's office," Dixon said of the decision to not publicly share any information about Auclair-Bellemare until after CBC News reported on a lawsuit filed by the victim in July.
"... We think at this stage now it's clear that the Liberal government cannot investigate themselves on this — they need to have an independent third party investigation take place."
Two additional alleged victims have since been identified.
Dixon added that the Yukon Party "very much" supports the territory's child and youth advocate, who is working with the Yukon government on a public review of policies and procedures, but thinks the situation is now "bigger than that."
"I think that we need to see an independent third-party review conducted of the behaviour of the department, but also just of the conduct of senior decision-makers throughout this episode," he said.
The CBC first requested an interview with McPhee, who's currently the minister of the health and social services and justice department as well as deputy premier, on Sept. 27. It sent a follow-up on Sept. 28 but, as of the late afternoon of Sept. 29, still has not received a confirmation or rejection of its request.
Parents calls for former minister, deputy minister to resign
The parent of one of the newly-identified alleged victims said that she, along with "upwards of 20" other Hidden Valley parents she'd spoken to, want to see the resignations of education officials involved with making decisions about Auclair-Bellemare in 2019.
In particular, the parent, whom the CBC is not naming to avoid identifying her child, said she was calling for the resignations of McPhee and deputy education minister Nicole Morgan, "because these are two people that are at the head of the totem pole and they are the people that make the ultimate final decisions."
"Had they just released this information [about Auclair-Bellemare] 22 months ago, we would have been 22 months closer to starting to heal from this," she said.
"... They delayed the possibility of our children getting the help they needed, getting the tools they needed to talk about this and actually having the other potential victims coming forward. We could have been through a big chunk of this healing part already."
The parent added that she was not mad at the school itself, and said staff there have made every effort to keep her informed and supported.
'It's a terrible nightmare'
Another parent, Kate Davis, said that while she would be "open" to seeing resignations, what she ultimately wanted to see was accountability, and people in the department admitting individual responsibility.
"It doesn't have to be all that complicated," she said. "It would be nice for transparency… Please give me a face and a name of someone that said, 'I made the decision to not tell you this or to not give you the option to help your son two years ago.'"
Davis said Auclair-Bellemare worked with her son; although he's not among the newly-identified victims, she still feels "terribly guilty" that she didn't give her son, who's non-verbal and has difficulty communicating even with assistive technology, "as much protection as he should have had."
"I failed him," she said, "and I would like to see who else can tell me, 'Hey, I failed this aspect, I made this decision and then made changes so it doesn't happen again.' It shouldn't just be the parents living with this and feeling terrible."
"I don't think they understand the gravity of how life-long this [will impact] people," Davis added.
"It's a horrible feeling, knowing you can't trust anybody … You're supposed to trust the school board, you're supposed to trust your minister of education, you're supposed to trust your RCMP. And when you start taking away those people that you can trust, it's a terrible nightmare."