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Education Minister Jeanie McLean

Liberals peppered with questions over ‘scandal’

It appears that Currie Dixon wasn’t issuing any empty warnings about what the primary issue of the fall sitting of the legislative assembly would be.

By Tim Giilck on October 8, 2021

It appears that Currie Dixon wasn’t issuing any empty warnings about what the primary issue of the fall sitting of the legislative assembly would be.

On Thursday afternoon, Currie and his Yukon Party colleagues hammered the governing Liberals with questions about the sexual abuse case involving a former educational assistant at Hidden Valley Elementary School.

The main focus of their questions was a beleaguered Education Minister Jeanie McLean.

The intensity of the attack seemed to take the government members a little by surprise. At one point, McLean blurted out that she had not been aware of the incident until mid-July, when media reports surfaced.

She had been in the office for 2 1/2 months by then – and claimed not to have been briefed by her staff nor her predecessor in the portfolio, Tracy-Anne McPhee.

“I did not become aware of them until the media reported on them,” McLean said.

“They were not part of the initial briefings within — our early briefings coming into the position as new ministers.”

A incredulous Dixon relentlessly asked her to explain that statement further, but McLean refused to address it again.

Time after time, she would merely say “it’s a very sensitive issue” or “it’s before the courts” along with “we know we’ve broken the trust with families.

“I welcome the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak about this very difficult matter that, at the heart, involves our children,” McLean said during question period.

“There is nothing more important than the well-being, safety, and protection of students when they are in our care.

“This is a devastating situation for absolutely everyone involved.

“Again, we acknowledge that there has been a breakdown in trust — we have acknowledged that — between the families, the Hidden Valley Elementary School, the Department of Education, and Yukoners as a whole, but I think that at the heart of this are our children,” McLean said.

“Since this is the first question today in this sitting, I want to remind the members opposite that we are in fact talking about children.

“Something very devastating has happened in this circumstance, and I want to remind them of this. These matters are very sensitive, Mr. Speaker, and I want to ask people to try to tread lightly with this. We are absolutely committed to rebuilding the trust.”

The Yukon Party was also shot down on its request for the Liberals to make all the cabinet documentation and discussions on the matter public.

After the chamber was adjourned for the day, Premier Sandy Silver was less than clear about the Hidden Valley situation with reporters.

He said the Yukon Party’s requests had taken him and the Liberals by surprise – and that’s why they shot down the motion for the cabinet documents to be made public.

“When the Yukon Party springs that kind of question on you, it’s hard to wrap your head around it on the fly,” Silver said.

“If they really want us to work in concert, they might have given us a head’s up. It’s really hard to answer your question when we don’t know what you’re going to ask.

“It’s a political tactic, and we’re doing the work. To play political football with this? No.”

“The independent reviews (see story, p. 8) will be comprehensive, will be open and inclusive and we will be transparent, and all the information we need for making the goal of making things better, will happen.”

Silver stopped short of saying the government would do so while at the same time talking about transparency.

“We will commit to being completely open and transparent with the independent reviews.”

Silver would not answer as to when he first knew about the Hidden Valley file. Nor is he contemplating any disciplinary action.

The NDP also got in on the act, saying the government actions on the situation were unacceptable.

During a post-question period news conference, Dixon said McLean’s claims that she did not know about the Hidden Valley file “strained credulity.”

“We learned two things today. The first is that the minister of Education claims that between the period of early May to mid-July that she never heard a thing about this case.

“That, of course, strains credulity in the greater sense. We are told that the department, her cabinet colleagues, the former minister (McPhee), did not inform her for 2 1/2 months about the biggest scandal facing this government. We find that very hard to believe.”

The second thing learned, Dixon said, “is that the minister of Education didn’t learn the government was subject to a lawsuit for two days.

“I’ve been a cabinet minister, and I can assure you that if a lawsuit making serious allegations of the conduct of my department was tabled in the courts, I would know about it right away.”

If the government didn’t have anything to hide, Dixon said, it wouldn’t have voted against making the cabinet documents public.

“That’s extremely problematic.”

Dixon was questioned as to why he’s insisting that McLean is not revealing the truth rather than considering if the situation is just as likely an example of general government incompetence.

“I’m not sure which,” he said. “But she’s telling us that for 2 1/2 months she didn’t hear about this. As a former cabinet minister, I can tell you those briefings (when you switch portfolios) are intense.

“At the very least, the former minister, her cabinet colleague (McPhee) should have said something to her about it. This is the biggest scandal facing this department and this government.”

Dixon said the party will continue to hammer the government over the issue until it gets more answers.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be a nice, long sitting (of the legislature).”

He was also critical of the review announced by the government on Wednesday evening – shortly before the house convened. That review, he said, only covers the situation in 2019. That scope is too narrow, and needs to be broadened, he said.

NDP Leader Kate White asked during question period, “Mr. Speaker, the handling of the situation at Hidden Valley School was all over the news. The minister offered an apology to parents and caregivers, but we all know that this was too little and it was too late, because so many questions remain unanswered.

“Information gathered under ATIPP paints a picture of individuals at the highest levels of government choosing to withhold information from families,” White said.

“Mr. Speaker, will the minister explain why the Department of Education chose to withhold this information and why families at Hidden Valley School were left in the dark about sexual abuse in their school until after it was publicly reported in the media nearly 18 months later?”

White didn’t have any more luck than did the Yukon Party at receiving a clear answer. She followed up with another blistering salvo.

“The government had the opportunity to make the right choice when the abuse was first disclosed in the fall of 2019,” the NDP leader said.

“They again had the opportunity to make the right choice when the offender was first convicted. They again had the opportunity to make the right choice this July when the story made news headlines, but it took them another month or so of public pressure to just decide to do something.

“Both ministers failed over and over again to do the right thing. Just (Wednesday) night, the minister of Education announced an independent review.

“Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain why parents and Yukoners should start trusting her government to do the right thing and stop withholding information when they have failed to do so multiple times already?”

Comments (32)

Up 1 Down 1

Sleet on Oct 14, 2021 at 6:04 pm

Remember back when Cryin’ Currie was having a hissy fit and wanted the Legislature called back to get the business of the Yukon rolling again?

Now he has wasted 4 days of the sitting using children as a political pawn. I guess we really didn’t need to call back the Ledge after all because apparently he’s got nothing better to talk about on the record other than revictimizing these children.

It’s before the courts. There are independent investigations underway for YG Education, elected members and the RCMP. All parties will be on the record with their answers as part of those undertakings, not in the Ledge.

Up 11 Down 2

Adam Smith on Oct 14, 2021 at 12:13 am

Who got upset over the Peel? This is kids getting abused. Your silence is educational.

Up 25 Down 4

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 13, 2021 at 1:25 pm

@Christine Nemeth

So the buck doesn't stop at the doorstep of the minister in charge and rely on the CBC to keep you informed on matters involving the welfare of children rather than relying on the government. Free pass for the politicians ultimately responsible for the portfolio and a free pass for deputy minister/s who place flawed policy over the rights of the public.
I'm sure an investigation focused on a very limited time period will get to the bottom of all the facts. A bumbling circus of incompetence with zero accountability displayed to date. Instead of looking at this as a chessboard where the kids are pawns, maybe you should think about ministers and deputy ministers as the jokers in a deck of cards.

Up 23 Down 5

John on Oct 13, 2021 at 11:38 am

@Christine Nemeth

Nice to try Christine. It didn't work. This is typical Liberal strategy to deflect everybody away from the reality of what occurred by pressuring readers to think that those that want accountability are doing so on the back of the victims for political purposes.

Well here is one person that wants a public airing not some hidden away, sanitized, tinkered with report that will allow those responsible to come out smelling like a rose.

Up 19 Down 2

John on Oct 13, 2021 at 11:33 am

Sorry but you are wrong. But then that is par for you and your Liberal buddies. You like to spread misinformation.

Up 5 Down 26

Yukoner32 on Oct 13, 2021 at 12:04 am


Hate to break it to you, but Creepy Currie did not take action, he merely pretended to and it obviously worked on you. You see, he said he would kick them out of shadow cabinet for the gross texts they sent, but what he failed to mention was that they would only be out for about 10 or 15 days of the last time the legislature was running in the spring. They are now back in his good graces and members of the shadow cabinet. Maybe you missed the announcement because it was on the federal election day so that it got no interest from the press.

Up 7 Down 13

Christine Nemeth on Oct 12, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Sounds like the independent inquiry is necessary. RCMP and Department of Education have acknowledged as much. I think that once the independent inquiry establishes what went wrong corrective actions will be put into place.
I am not sure what is to be gained by making this into a finger pointing political scandal. Our children are not political pawns. Let's just make sure that the current government puts measures in place to be sure that it never happens again.
In the meantime could this sitting of the Legislature get down to work?
I hope that we can see some work getting done and no Elections in the next few years.

Up 22 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Oct 12, 2021 at 10:00 am

Your comment: "...due process" and "innocent until proven guilty", how the hell are you supposed to prosecute?"
This debate is taking place in the public domain legislature not in a court of law. But I am pleased that you already believe some of these actors should be prosecuted.
The process underway now is to determine and confirm the chain of events after the EA's crimes were committed and if this information was withheld from the public to shore up opportunity for the pending election. Any criminality related to these actions is still to be determined.

Up 40 Down 4

yukongirl on Oct 12, 2021 at 9:47 am

I completely fail to understand how Tracy McPhee has not been given the punt from cabinet. She lacks the people's trust in her moral capability to lead any department of the government. The electorate of her riding can decide whether they want to return her to office. The DM and ADM of Education should have been let go as well.

I am not much for partisan politics but at least Currie Dixon took action when two of his elected officials texted things that should never have been said. Ms. McPhee created distrust between all Yukon parents and the Department of Education. Sandy Silver is not showing any leadership by letting her have an authority position.

Up 33 Down 3

Brenda on Oct 12, 2021 at 7:30 am

@Observer - are you serious ? The Yukon party is not using this as a political football they are calling out the Liberals for yet another scandal. These parents did not find out about any of this until the media reported on it. This is abuse of children by a person in a position of trust. Then when questioned the Liberals spewed out excuses like it is before the courts. No the person was charged and pled guilty and when the parent filed a lawsuit against the government did this come to light.
Get your facts straight!

Up 43 Down 11

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 11, 2021 at 1:30 pm

What's the difference between a fire alarm and the Yukon Liberal Party?
Both are painted red and white but the fire alarm will warn you of potential harm to your family on the eve of an election.

Up 10 Down 52

Observer on Oct 11, 2021 at 1:25 pm

It is truly sad how the cons are turning this into a political football. Only using it for their political gain. Perhaps they should spend some time with a lawyer who understands "due process" and "innocent until proven guilty", how the hell are you supposed to prosecute?

Up 17 Down 47

Totally real name on Oct 11, 2021 at 7:57 am

Never change small town extremist soapbox. Never change.

Are you old and vile right wingers starting to realize the scale of right wing failure? Every generation is more progressive than the last and your dinosaur party only appeals to the elderly and most extreme right wingers.
Keep infighting and ignoring the youth and minorities. It's working so very well.

Up 15 Down 38

Pay Attention on Oct 10, 2021 at 9:11 pm


Maybe you missed the announcement because Dixon made it quietly on the day of the federal election but Hazzard and Istchenko were brought back into the shadow cabinet. And it's highly doubtful they took any kind of sensitivity training. So they were 'punished' by being put out of the shadow cabinet for about 10 days of the legislature back in the spring. WHOA, I bet they've learned their lesson! Dixon most definitely showed everyone how seriously he takes misogyny within his party.

Up 47 Down 4

Brenda on Oct 10, 2021 at 4:17 pm

What does it take ? How many lies? How many scandals ? This liberal government cares more about their safety than of our children. I agree this is the group home scandal all over again - who got axed for that a DM that was allowed to resign. The Manager of the group homes at the time got off scott free and then won the lottery literally! The Director, DM and Minister all coasted through that.
Here we go again - our Premiere does nothing to address concerns - he is only concerned with his political survival. It makes me sick that all of these people in high paid positions are NEVER held accountable and our children suffer - the Yukon is a shameful place that promotes wrongdoing. So leaving …..

Up 50 Down 4

My Opinion on Oct 10, 2021 at 3:36 pm

I wonder if the fear is because they know that this deep dive into this will show there are more employees in positions of trust within the Education system that are very suspect. You can't help but wonder. Let's do some background checks. To be a Coach at the Arctic Winter Games I had to submit to background checks. Maybe education should be the same. Why are we protecting these people?

Up 59 Down 15

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm

"Conservatives have their own skeletons in the cupboard. Who were the two that were criticized for their misogynists' comments?"

Sandy Silver acted immediately by sharing the offensive texts with the media and the public yet he failed to inform members of the public about potential predatory crimes against our children, and he also refuses to make redacted cabinet discussion on the matter public.

Currie Dixon immediately expelled the members who posted the offensive text from critic roles in cabinet and made them take sensitivity training while Sandy Silver has only acted by stating to the press that questions from the opposition parties are too difficult for him to handle, and have caught him off guard.

I am glad you have asked us to think about the contrast in such woke terms. You are completely correct, it is Sandy Silver's leadership failings that should be front and center.

Up 57 Down 7

Groucho d'North on Oct 10, 2021 at 10:05 am

I certainly hope all of you who voted Liberal in the last territorial election are voicing your displeasure to this administration about these events and how they are being evasive and self-serving in their responses. Send Sandy an email about how they are representing you as constituents, because your silence is your permission for them to continue as they are doing.

Up 46 Down 6

Jim on Oct 9, 2021 at 1:58 pm

@Wow, it’s these types of comments that have me worried. Your idea that questioning a serious failure by this government is somehow just to score political points and a low blow is crazy. You would be happier with waiting for the Liberals to finish sweeping the true facts under the carpet so you don’t have to realize the incompetence of this government. I’m not sure if this is the Liberal platform for federal, provincial and territorial politics. But it seems pretty standard to deflect and if that fails revert to taking points. There must be a course out there that they must pass. Even though your obviously a anti-conservative, surely you can see the arrogance and incompetence of this government. They don’t have Yukoners interest in mind. They have their pensions as their top priority.

Up 56 Down 6

Cameron on Oct 9, 2021 at 1:28 pm

This is just like the group home scandal - zero accountability. At least in that situation after months of denials and lying the DM was allowed to resign after wrong doing was found. If the government was smart and accountable the current DM and former Minister McPhee would be terminated.
The complete lack of accountability by this government is shameful - our Premiere needs to grow a backbone, acknowledge the cover ups and start to clean his house up! Yet again lies, cover up and political gobble goop have become more important than the health and safety of children - people come on - when does it stop?

Up 17 Down 57

TheHammer on Oct 9, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Funny how female politicians seem to get more virulent negative comments from the conservative side of the public. Conservatives have their own skeletons in the cupboard. Who were the two that were criticized for their misogynists' comments?
The minister is not the culprit.

Up 63 Down 10

John on Oct 9, 2021 at 12:07 pm

@ Wow - a Liberal sent in to do damage control on a raging fire with a cup of water.

Up 73 Down 7

Seymour Skinner on Oct 9, 2021 at 9:50 am

It must be so frustrating to be asked a question before being told the question. Poor little guy. Then on top of that, to be a politician in a political legislature and being forced to discuss politics. Ugh. #hugsforsandy

I’d really like to hear the answer that changed their position from the children's advocate has no legal authority to investigate, to ‘we are open and transparent with the reviews’. Time to start building actual trust instead of vague apologies and that you are ‘doing the work’. ..and if you’re going to apologize, at least show up to the press conference. Be better.

Up 92 Down 9

Hidden Valley Mom on Oct 9, 2021 at 7:45 am

If McPhee had any integrity or honour, she would resign. The lack of accountability here is disgusting.

Up 75 Down 7

Rick S on Oct 8, 2021 at 11:41 pm

Businesses should start posting "Unwelcome Customers" lists on their doors with all those involved.
Has anyone listened to McPhee on the radio? Awful. Makes me wonder if they'll even be able to hold their cabinet together for much longer.

Up 65 Down 13

Al on Oct 8, 2021 at 10:24 pm

I can not believe I have another person who wants to buy the Teslin Bridge. Soon I will have to hold an auction to see if I can maximize the sale price.

This time the award goes to Jeanie McLean for her assertion that she was not aware of the happenings at HVES until mid July of this year !!! I truly can not believe this to be true. This sad story has been going on for several "years" - gads even the hermits in the bush have heard about it! But not McLean - even though she attended cabinet and caucus meetings where this item for sure would have been mentioned. Ms. McLean you have lost all credibility on this one. One can not believe anything that you say even if your lips came notarized.

I really do suggest you tender your resignation so as not to embarrass yourself any further. It will be good for your mental health.

Up 83 Down 9

Tracey McPhee and Nicole Morgan on Oct 8, 2021 at 8:55 pm

Tracey McPhee and Nicole Morgan....why is this solely being dumped on Jeanie McLean? TM and NM need to answer for all of this and should be jobless after.

Up 82 Down 13

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 8, 2021 at 7:06 pm

The only reason Silver is refusing to release documents and is allowing a narrow investigation is because he doesn't want the public to know that this was buried to avoid a political scandal heading into an election. The facts presented to date point in that direction.

Up 20 Down 83

Wow on Oct 8, 2021 at 5:24 pm

Cryin’ Currie has ZERO political instinct.
Trying to score political points on the back of (allegedly) abused children. You know, with that guy, just when you can’t imagine him sinking lower someone hands him a shovel and he starts digging.

Up 119 Down 18

JSM on Oct 8, 2021 at 4:30 pm

I am actually inclined to believe Jamie here, I have no doubts that Tracy and Slippery Sandy tried to sweep this under the rug. It is clear that Tracy is not a person of honour. The Liberals seem happy and complacent to keep these people in positions of power over our most vunerable. A true tragedy.

Up 97 Down 16

Josey Wales on Oct 8, 2021 at 4:23 pm

Ah yes...and we will be a salted with lies and deception.

Up 135 Down 18

Jim on Oct 8, 2021 at 4:21 pm

So this issue has been all over local news for quite sometime. Silver’s response to stonewalling is because they weren’t briefed on what questions they would be asked before the sitting. In other words, they need more time to prepare to get their lies straight.

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