Photo by Whitehorse Star
Education Minister Jeanie McLean
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Education Minister Jeanie McLean
The Child and Youth Advocate’s office doesn’t have the authority to conduct a review of the situation regarding a convicted sex offender who worked at Hidden Valley Elementary School.
Education Minister Jeanie McLean made that assertion in an interview with the Star this morning.
There had previously been no answers forthcoming from the Department of Education in response to the 2020 conviction of a former educational assistant at the school on one count of sexual interference with a child at the school.
The incident was originally reported 18 months ago, when Tracy-Anne McPhee was the Education minister.
Concerned parents wrote a letter to the department, which appeared in Monday’s Star, demanding answers.
Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers subsequently wrote a letter to McLean, published in the Star on Wednesday, stating parents of the students at the school deserve answers.
McLean said this morning she has responded to parents’ concerns about the situation.
“When the matter came to our attention in 2019, we informed the RCMP as we became aware of the allegations, the individual in question no longer worked with students, and/or in the schools,” the minister said.
“And also, in terms of letters we’ve received recently, I have responded to all the parents who wrote letters, and all of their allies as well, and just wanted to be clear that we really needed to take the time necessary to ensure that we had accurate information about the situation in order to respond accurately, and all of those letters have gone out.”
She was asked if the parents weren’t previously told about the educational assistant being investigated and later convicted because he no longer worked at the school.
McLean replied, “No. We turned over the investigation to the RCMP, and there are certain protocols in place to protect the identity of the child involved, so that’s part of the investigative process, and ensuring that the confidentiality, I guess, of the individual involved was protected.”
She was asked what, in addition to responding to parents, her department is doing to address the situation.
McLean responded that the matter is before the courts, as the child’s father has launched a civil lawsuit, but confirmed there are ongoing investigations by the RCMP being conducted.
“Right now there’s not a lot I can say,” she said.
“There is a matter before the courts, but more importantly, my understanding is that there are active investigations going on with the RCMP.
“So if parents are concerned that their child acted with this former employee, in a concerning manner, I really urge them to contact the RCMP’s Special Response Unit, and they can reach them at 667-5555, and directly share the information. “I’ve also provided information to parents about Project Lynx, which is a Government of Yukon victim program, that specifically supports children and youth, victims of crime and their families, as to whether there’s been a crime that’s been reported, or whether charges have been laid, or whether there’s been a conviction, this team’s in place to ensure that youth and children are supported, and families as well, so Project Lynx can be reached at 867-667-8500, or you can email email@example.com.
“That has been shared with parents as well,” the minister said. “And again, not a lot that I can say about the situation, because it is actively before the courts, and there are active investigations going on.”
She was questioned further about the incidents under investigation, McLean would only say, “Again, at this time, I’m not able to make any further comments.
“I have a responsibility to avoid any actions that would jeopardize the outcome of these important legal processes under way.”
As for whether additional counselling will be provided for students, parents and staff, and some parents have requested, McLean said that is to be determined.
“We’re currently preparing for the upcoming school year with... our school communities, and we’ll be working directly with our school communities to determine what additional supports will be required, and we’ll be providing those to the school.”
Regarding communication with parents in the future, McLean said they will continue to follow current protocols in place.
“We do have protocols in place, and we will continue to follow those protocols that we have in place, and work with the Department of Justice and the RCMP to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken.
“Again, we would follow our protocols and go with what’s best with the situation at hand.”
McLean said she would be willing to provide the protocols to the Star as a follow-up to her interview comments.
As the Star reported Wednesday, Annette King, the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate (YCAO) announced a systemic review of safety and supports at the school.
“The Department of Education has yet to provide a formal response to the incident,” King stated.
“This review is in accordance with the YCAO’s mandate of advocacy on systemic issues that arise during the course of individual advocacy.”
But McLean countered that the YCAO does not have the authority to conduct the review.
“Our deputy minister replied to Ms. King yesterday, and it is the view of the Government of Yukon that the Child and Youth Advocate office does not have the legal authority to conduct the kind of review that has been proposed,” McLean said.
“We recognize absolutely the importance of the Child and Youth Advocate office and our officials are in communication with her office and are planning to meet and discuss the situation.
“What we have proposed in the letter that was written from our deputy minister is that Section 15 review, which really gives her the statutory instrument to conduct the review at a later time, and I mean, we do have, as I said, active investigations going on, and a matter before the courts, and so under a Section 15 agreement, the department would work with the Child and Youth Advocate to determine terms of reference and parameters for a review.
“This was done recently with the attendance review, so that is how you would deem the statutory instrument to be able to do the type of review that Ms. King would like to do, and so we are prepared to work with her towards that.”
Asked how long a delay for a review to take place would be, McLean replied, “I think it depends on how the current investigations are going. So we will continue to determine.
“But we will invite Ms. King to be part of the conversations as we plan for the upcoming year, with all schools, but particularly with the school that is in question.”
As for the main basis for the lack of authority of the YCAO at this time, McLean reiterated, “It’s within the act. We’ve clearly stated that to her.
“To gain the authority to do such a review, we would need to work with her, to determine again, under Section 15, the parameters of such a review.
“So we’re prepared to work with Ms. King going forward on this.”
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