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Education Minister Jeanie McLean

Advocate lacks authority for review: minister

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.

By Morris Prokop on August 6, 2021

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 victim.services@yukon.ca.

“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.”

See letter.

Comments (14)

Up 1 Down 0

Captain Obvious on Aug 13, 2021 at 5:14 am

The lingering question that begs to be answered is what did the local MLA Cathers know, when did he know it or when should he have known it. Was member Cathers in communication with the school board and if so how many times?
C'mon Brad there are too many known unknowns here.

Up 4 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Aug 11, 2021 at 10:03 am

Do you have something to contribute to this discussion about failures in the education system or are you just throwing rocks?

Up 7 Down 14

Butch C. on Aug 10, 2021 at 5:08 am

Dear Brad, is there or was there a School Board involved here that you don't seem to be aware of as you drive by with your ample fuel subsidy? When did they become aware of the situation, did they contact you. (silence as Brad dreams up his next UFO story)

Up 32 Down 6

Just wondering on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:29 am

I don't know if some of these elected officials have children but if they do how would they act if the shoe was on the other foot? Makes me sick they make it all about themselves. It's about the kids safety and helping the parents. So pull your heads all the way out and respect the parents and children. These are the people we elected. Hopefully there is an election and we can maybe get some genuine elected officials that want to work for the people.

Up 18 Down 6

Brian Melanson on Aug 9, 2021 at 9:49 am

We need to take a harder stance and give harsher punishment for these sexual crimes against children.
Absolutely gross.

What ever happened to Capital Punishment? Time to bring it back!!!

Up 26 Down 6

Al on Aug 8, 2021 at 10:36 pm

Sad, truly sad. To have a minister obfuscate to the public what the Department did or more precisely didn't do is truly a Department that has lost it's morality. Strange that the minister and those involved, directly or indirectly, should hang their collective heads in shame are doing anything but. It is imperative to make it clear that whatever transpires both the minions to the minister and she herself needs to be accountable to the public court. The burden of responsibility lies directly on the minister's shoulders. This not only means the current minister but her predecessor as well. It appears that minister went to some length in trying keep a lid on the issue. As for the Child and Youth Advocate’s office's intervention - well all I can say is bully for the Advocate. At least someone has the interest of what is really crystal clear to do the right thing. Whether they have the "legal" authority is totally irrelevant when it comes to the protection of our children when in the custodial care of the government.

This is by far not the only time this government has made efforts to deflect responsibility - in fact Mostyn continually lives in a state of denial as to his responsibilities. Where is the premier in all this ? No leadership by calling the ministers to his office and making it clear to transgressors what is expected of them. Of course, if you lack the moral compass to the highest office then it is expected that those reporting to the premier will also lack morality.

What we see going on here is no different then what we see transpiring in Ottawa everyday. The Liberal government also shows lack of a moral compass and character.

Up 38 Down 2

Oya on Aug 8, 2021 at 9:52 am

@ Hidden Valley Mom.... Your first sentence says it all. I agree completely.

Up 66 Down 11

D B on Aug 7, 2021 at 4:17 pm

Worst education minister ever.

Up 72 Down 7

Hidden Valley Mom on Aug 7, 2021 at 12:50 pm

I have to really question the integrity, intentions and ego of an elected official who opposes a review regarding the safety and wellbeing of our kids. Psst, Mclean, your insecurity and desperation to be taken seriously as a minister is showing. Honestly, we need some politicians who are in this for more than themselves. Really shaking my head on this one.

So where is McPhee in all this? Hello? Crickets, huh?

Interesting that this was swept under the rug and the minister re-elected. Would you have voted for her again, knowing she withheld this information? How about if we find out that the convicted person victimized more than one child? I can't believe the callous ineptitude of our elected "leaders." This is disgracefully shameful. McPhee should be recalled, no question.

Really this is more of the same culture and attitude I have experienced with other Yukon government depts. The govt controls the narrative, the release of information, and, it's all made up as they go along. As I was told a couple years ago by the ADM of EMR, if we don't like it, we're free to sue them. Let that sink in.

Up 41 Down 10

Think Like a Liberal on Aug 7, 2021 at 10:50 am

Hello JSM - The reason it went on so long was because the Liberal Accountability Machine and the Random Excuse Generator were not able to sync together… Liberals could have been blamed and the time was needed to control the narrative.

Up 41 Down 7

Groucho d'North on Aug 7, 2021 at 10:45 am

The old "Its before the courts so I can't comment" ploy. They had 18 months to build a strategy for how the department and Cabinet would deal with this matter once it became public. Appears they failed in this too. Will they blame COVID next? With all the communications staff this administration has, you'd think they would be better at informing Yukoners about their work. I'm sure these staff are equally frustrated when the electeds don't follow their advise and continue to use the Force as it appears they do with most situations.

Up 23 Down 8

Wow on Aug 6, 2021 at 5:17 pm

@JSM, government doesn’t wanna risk losing tourism money, that’s really all this is. They are trying to attract as many people as they can.

Up 41 Down 4

Nathan Living on Aug 6, 2021 at 4:50 pm

A letter to all parents about the incident and investigation would have been appropriate.

Also, within the letter a suggestion of what resources are available if patents think their children were victimized.

Up 73 Down 10

JSM on Aug 6, 2021 at 4:04 pm

Jeez, you think it would be pretty clear to get the poor kids and parents some help. We need to do better. Any idea why the liberal government has let this go on so long without support?

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