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Former Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon

McPhee critical of opposition’s focus on Hidden Valley School controversy

Tracy-Anne McPhee, the former Education minister and current deputy premier, broke her silence on the Hidden Valley school scandal Wednesday.

By Tim Giilck on October 14, 2021

Tracy-Anne McPhee, the former Education minister and current deputy premier, broke her silence on the Hidden Valley school scandal Wednesday.

Sort of.

McPhee was the subject of a number of questions from the Yukon Party during question period in the legislature, but she didn’t answer any of them.

Instead, current Education Minister Jeanie McLean jumped in to answer every one of them. Meanwhile, McPhee and Premier Sandy Silver sat stone-faced through a very aggressive interrogation from the opposition.

McLean answered every question with a variation of this statement:

“I welcome the opportunity to stand once again to speak to the parents and speak to Yukoners about this very serious incident that happened at Hidden Valley in 2019 and to express to Yukoners how seriously our government has taken this situation.

“Over the last day or so, I have spoken a great deal about what has happened and the steps that we are now taking to address the situation.

“I want to go back. As soon as Education officials learned of the allegations in 2019, the individual was immediately removed from the school and has not worked with children since and, of course, is no longer an employee of Government of Yukon.

“Hidden Valley School administration changed their protocols to increase safety to students and reinforce accountability. We informed the RCMP, and we expected them to undertake a complete and thorough investigation of this matter.

“Yukon RCMP have initiated a complete review of their own investigation.

“Mr. Speaker, there were mistakes made in 2019. Again, we are working toward a full and thorough investigation into these matters.”

William Auclair-Bellemare, 34, a former educational assistant at the school, served a jail term for sexual interference involving a child at Hidden Valley in 2019. The youngster’s parents have launched a civil lawsuit against him and the government.

On Sept. 10, it was announced that a day earlier, the Yukon RCMP Specialized Response Unit had arrested William Auclair-Bellemare, 34.

He has been charged with offences related to alleged incidents involving two children occurring between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2018.

Auclair-Bellemare, who is free on bail, has been charged with sexual exploitation, sexual assault, sexual interference and the invitation to sexual touching.

McPhee was the education minister when the debacle started to unfold, as well as Justice minister, a position she still holds.

McPhee later said she wasn’t answering any of the questions directed at her “because (McLean) is the minister of Education.”

However, during a media scrum afterward, McPhee was somewhat more forthcoming, although her comments appeared to be careful, if not not heavily scripted.

“Absolutely (I was aware of the file),” McPhee said in response to a question as to whether she knew about the situation.

“This is a very serious situation,” she added, echoing the exact words McLean has been using.

“Our goal is to answer questions posed by families and to provide support and counselling - whatever might be needed by those students and those families.”

McPhee sounded off as well on the questions being asked by the opposition parties.

“The tactic – I’ll call it that – of the opposition asking minister McLean questions as to who knew what when are all questions that will be answered by the review being done by the Child and Youth Advocate (Annette King) and the independent review being done into these matters.”

McPhee said both leader Currie Dixon and MLA Brad Cathers of the Yukon Party should know – as former ministers – is that all of the questions they’re asking relate to evidence.

“(It’s) about evidence that will be uncovered in the review. There are still two criminal matter and two civil matters before the courts,” McPhee said.

“We’ve asked for two independent reviews to reveal what occurred when. Their questions in the legislative assembly are about evidence that could adversely affect the cases that are before the courts.

“What most of you wouldn’t know is that I prosecuted cases like for over 20 years,” McPhee added.

“I know exactly what kinds of evidence and the kinds of things that could adversely affect these kind of cases. I’m not going to weigh into any area of answering those kinds of questions that will ultimately affect the cases in an adverse way.”

McPhee also criticized the opposition parties – particularly the Yukon Party – for their relentless focus on the Hidden Valley issue. She said they had some of their facts wrong, “although I’m not going to correct them here.

“The place to correct them is not on the front page of the paper. Frankly, it’s in the independent reviews, and it’s in being careful not to disturb the evidence that might come to light.”

The facts that will come to light, McPhee added, won’t support the allegations being made by the opposition.

She said the grilling of the government is doing a disservice to Yukoners as a whole, since there are many other matters to focus on.

“There are other government issues. Unfortunately, the opposition is persisting with these questions when all will be revealed in time through these independent reviews.”

McPhee was also highly critical of the RCMP involvement in the case, and suggested the police force bears the brunt of the blame for an investigation it recently admitted was botched.

“It’s absolutely critically important to know the errors were theirs,” the minister said.

“They must know that when this matter was informed to the RCMP, we thought a comprehensive investigation would contact other families. The RCMP have apologized because that was a critical error.”

McPhee called that admission highly unusual.

She refused to answer a reporter’s question as to whether she had seen a draft letter that had been intended to be sent to the families of students at the school in 2019.

“I’d like to answer that question, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to do so because you’re asking about evidence that could affect either of the review or more importantly the civil and the criminal cases that are before the courts.

“I’m being extremely careful with respect to any of the evidence.”

Dixon spoke to reporters following McPhee’s comments and said her claims were “incredible.

“Neither of the issues are before the courts,” he pointed out.

“We asked why the draft letter wasn’t sent out and why the current minister of Education wasn’t briefed. Neither of those questions have anything to do with the court cases.

“Her inability or unwillingness to answer questions in the legislature is disturbing,” Dixon added.

“She’s indicated she knew everything about this. She knew a letter was drafted, she knew parents were not going to be informed.

“And we know the decision to not notify the parents is the decision that led to the delay in justice for those additional victims. The minister’s decision to not inform the parents led to delays in justice for these families. and that’s unacceptable.”

NDP Leader Kate White didn’t pull any punches either.

During question period, NDP MLA Annie Blake asked, “Can the minister tell us exactly why it took her almost two months after the abuse was made public to start directly talking with parents, and why, after four months of public pressure, are we still hearing from families who say that support is lacking?”

After question period, White said, “Saying there’s going to be an independent review is one thing.

“So there are some things that need to be bolstered in that review. There are a lot of questions to be answered ahead of that.”

White picked her words carefully, but took a shot at the leadership of Silver – who hasn’t risen in the assembly to take any of the heat off McLean.

“From a position of leadership, if that was my colleague or colleagues, or you were on my team, I would have gotten involved,” White said.

“At a certain point and time, the leadership stops with the person at the top. After three days, the minister has easily answered 15 question on this.

“We’ve seen previously where premiers would get involved and deflect from the minister. I know what I would do.”

Comments (26)

Up 13 Down 4

Yukong on Oct 20, 2021 at 11:19 am

McPhee sounds like a typical arrogant lawyer who thinks she's smarter than the dirty peasants she's supposed to serve. Ask yourself, in the handling of this situation and hiding the events from the public- whose interests were being served?

Up 26 Down 8

Oya on Oct 19, 2021 at 6:21 am

Yukongirl, my sentiments exactly. McPhee needs to go and she needs to go now.

Up 35 Down 7

yukongirl on Oct 18, 2021 at 2:06 pm

Yukoner49, one of the biggest issues of this is that parents could not check with their children at the time to learn what level of interaction they had or may have had with the pedophile. If they had a negative interaction, this person could have been facing additional charges at an earlier date, and more importantly those children could have been receiving the help they undoubtedly need immediately instead of two years later.

I am not a parent of a Hidden Valley child but the very idea that an Education Minister actively prevented any child from getting medical and therapeutic assistance makes me stomach sick. The fact that she did this to cover her own butt for political reasons leaves me feeling complete disgust for the woman. For me, she does not have any moral authority to hold any position of power and should have been fired from Cabinet.

Up 14 Down 25

Yukoner49 on Oct 17, 2021 at 8:53 pm

Ok, so if I understand this correctly, the POS pedophile had abused kids between 2014-2019 at Hidden Valley School. He was then arrested and pulled out of the school system as soon as it became known.

So, that means, kids were no longer at risk once the first allegations were made since the guy was removed right away. So it's not like the government knew there was a pedophile working there and failed to inform parents of the danger their kids were in, since the threat was neutralized.

So, is all of the uproar, because parents weren't notified quick enough that this had happened to other kids in the past? Even if the government or RCMP had sent out a letter the very next day after this sick f&%$ was arrested, how would that have made kids at the school any more or less safe? I mean the guy was already removed. My kids don't go there so I'm not as up-to-date on everything as other parents likely are. But it seems like a tempest in a teacup unless there is something obvious I'm not seeing?

There are many worse, horrible and dangerous situations in predominantly First Nation communities that happen and have happened which don't get near this much attention from. Kind of a sad testament of our society and media. Unless, like I said, there is something major which I'm missing here.

Up 7 Down 6

Josey Wales on Oct 17, 2021 at 6:11 am

Hey Oya...the reason deadblow that?
Two actually, completely uninformed of history proper and politics...and deadblow seems to suffer intellectual midget syndrome.
I could be wrong, unlikely, but possible.
Stay tuned certain deadblow will do some epic mental gymnastics to attempt to correct me.

The only folks that drone about race, where on the PC hierarchy they dominate or can identify...are the actual racists
The human race is the only one that matters, lately...kinda have my doubts on that one even.
...as we rapidly circle the proverbial drain.

Up 27 Down 8

Oya on Oct 16, 2021 at 8:14 am

@ TheHammer. I guess it’s not your kid that got abused at Hidden Valley School, eh? Why make this into a race issue? Disgusting.

Up 32 Down 11

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 16, 2021 at 12:04 am

@Lynx on Oct 14, 2021 at 10:03 pm
"Who to trust here... Tracy McPhee the actual lawyer or Currie Dixon the career government worker/bureaucrat"

Well I sure as heck won't be trusting the deputy premier to look out for the best interests of my kids.

Up 37 Down 6

Al on Oct 15, 2021 at 10:15 pm

After just reading the CBC article: "Hidden Valley parents disagree with Yukon justice minister, say they want attention on sexual abuse scandal". The article is very enlightening and is a must read as a follow-up to McPhee's above comments. Good for the CBC for doing some digging. Here is the URL: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/hidden-valley-tracy-mcphee-parents-1.6213581.

Interesting that the Minister and Premier both have lied about what the parents at the school "actually want to know".
Please read it - you won't be wasting your time (unless of course you are a Liberal - then you will likely try and hide your head in shame.

Both of the Opposition Parties - please, on behalf of all Yukoner's keep pressing the government for answers. Me, I would tie the house up in knots till we get the answers.
What is truly sad and distasteful is that have no regard for the children whose lives have been damaged. All they want to do is sweep everything under the carpet, quickly and quietly...

Up 26 Down 6

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 15, 2021 at 5:07 pm

That statement could have been far more effective had you omitted "white whackos". You made yourself the bigot when you tried to change the channel.

Up 13 Down 47

TheHammer on Oct 15, 2021 at 3:50 pm

This case seems to have called out more heated comments and debate than the thousands of FN children abused by the church. Add this to the foot dragging on Truth and Reconciliation, and what have you got, a skewed example of white wackos.

Up 56 Down 7

McPhee and Morgan gone on Oct 15, 2021 at 3:33 pm

McPhee and Morgan gone. No other way through this. Keep these 2 and your government tells us that incompetence is not held to account.

Up 43 Down 7

Bill on Oct 15, 2021 at 12:08 pm

@ Christine NemethI
Well Christine, perhaps you should pay attention to what goes on in Leg. MLA's do not spend every waking moment in the Leg discussing this topic. The only opportunity to air concerns is in Question Period that last about 50 minutes.

It is sad that you think this topic is not one of, if not the most, serious issues the Territory has, and is, facing. The other topics pale in comparison. They may have some importance, but, this issue should not be sidelined because you do not want to hear the truth. Just imagine, this is just the icing on the cake that we are hearing about. Al's comment is spot on and I personally welcome people getting upset over what has transpired. If you really want touchy-feely things then perhaps you might think of moving to BC. There is loads of that down there. Here we want honesty, transparency, and accountability.

Up 61 Down 7

Groucho d'North on Oct 15, 2021 at 10:16 am

I believe there is evidence enough now to determine that the critical failure of attending to the appropriate follow-up for this vile crime occurred at the Cabinet table. Where does the buck stop? They all knew about it- except possibly Ms. Mclean- who it appears got tossed under the bus by her colleagues. Or perhaps she drew the short straw to take the heat while an "Independent Inquiry" will be created to reveal only that which they allow to be seen.
Harkon back to all the moral platitudes spoken by the political wannabes leading up to the election - do they hold water today?
Come on Kate you hold the hammer of power here. Use it or forever be known as the one who chose not to stand up and be counted...like the Premier - a former teacher.

Up 67 Down 8

Minister of Arrogance and disrespect on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:52 am

Minister/Deputy Premiere McPhee - she knows everything and how dare anyone question her complete mishandling of this. She places blame on everyone else and takes zero responsibility because she knows best she is the expert. When she finally decides to speak and stop hiding she does so with arrogance and disrespect. Shameful.

Up 60 Down 8

yukongirl on Oct 15, 2021 at 3:21 am

So the responsibility for informing parents was the RCMP’s and not the Department of Education’s? And the Yukoners who want answers have to wait for the review that the Liberal government said was unnecessary? Ms. McPhee thinks the opposition parties are wasting valuable time in the legislature on this issue? Keep deflecting your responsibility in this heinous matter, Ms. McPhee. I am starting to understand why your government made such extreme concessions to the NDP and I’m wishing Ms. White hadn’t made the deal. I would truly love to have a fourth election in Yukon this year.

Up 60 Down 6

NeilAlexGeddy on Oct 14, 2021 at 11:18 pm

So in other words the Department of Education under McPhee's leadership has made such a mess out of this situation that the government is wide open for civil lawsuits. Evidence in this context means that transparency on her part would favour civil prosecutor/s. The strategy for the governing party is to shut up, deflect all the blame on the RCMP, and hope that the plaintiffs don't have the money to drag the process out beyond the publication date of the reviews. That is how this piece reads.

Up 12 Down 64

Lynx on Oct 14, 2021 at 10:03 pm

Who to trust here... Tracy McPhee the actual lawyer or Currie Dixon the career government worker/bureaucrat?

Up 60 Down 8

Joe on Oct 14, 2021 at 8:42 pm

Mcphee says” “What most of you wouldn’t know is that I prosecuted cases like for over 20 years,” McPhee added.” what most of us ask is “ really? Cause it doesn't really seem like you know what you're talking about “ from a public kinda view...

Up 44 Down 5

Sheepchaser on Oct 14, 2021 at 8:41 pm

Said it about this issue before, but this spectacle deserves a repeat:

The Canada Public Service playbook is to lie until you get caught and once caught to play incompetent to avoid any serious consequences.

Especially lovely to see them hiding behind reviews after first trying to block the child advocate’s review. It defies all notions of propriety of the offices they hold. Leaders in title only. Certainly not in actions. When the respect you demand as a leader outpaces the competence you display in that position, you are already a failure.

This is the old guard passing into oblivion. The only question that really matters is how many average people they will make suffer under the weight of their incompetence before they throw in the towel a decade too late.

Up 15 Down 46

Edie rue on Oct 14, 2021 at 7:50 pm

I love it when the government is called out for their mistakes. That’s very important. However, I find this is morphing into something else. It feels a little greasy now, like the Yukon Party is trying to collect all the points they can without realizing, or caring whose watching. There are confirmed and possibly many more children whom were sexually abused by this man. I doubt if Dixon knows anything about sexual trauma, but maybe he should learn.

Up 59 Down 6

Brenda on Oct 14, 2021 at 7:46 pm

McPhee - “we’ve asked for two independent reviews” wait a minute - was it not your government that initially said the advocate had no authority to do a review? Liberals need to get their stories straight. Shame on you McPhee dumping this all on the RCMP - you should be fired. Premiere Silver just sits back and enjoys the show. To promote McPhee to Deputy Premiere is beyond shameful but in line with the Liberals rewarding wrongdoing. This is truly truly unbelievable the gall and arrogance of the Liberals.

Up 40 Down 7

Truthseeker on Oct 14, 2021 at 6:15 pm

I worked as an EA for 3 years in the Yukon education system. I was never checked or monitored. I asked for feedback and performance reviews and never got any.
I think the problem lies in a system, that for whatever reason, is pushing workers through without proper protocol or observation.
Working one on one with students you work alone a lot with them, so the system needs to change and have more built in accountability and monitoring. We are taking about our vulnerable children. This should be of the utmost importance.

Up 12 Down 49

Christine NemethI on Oct 14, 2021 at 5:49 pm

I find the above comments unsettling. It does seem that those who lean to the right suggest that only they can fix the problems in our society.
It also seems that many would like us to buy into some imaginary political scandal before we have a full understanding of the facts.
The attempts to make us distrust our politicians and institutions can only be part of a much darker agenda.
I would like to see Currie and company get back to address some serious problems.
Many of you hurling stones probably have stable housing. You are likely unaware we are facing a climate change emergency.
Have you or someone close to you had their lives turned upside down by addiction.
I won't go there about your thoughts on mask and vaccine mandates because many of you still can't believe that we are in the middle of a pandemic.
I would ask all politicians who serve us in the Yukon to get down to addressing the real problems we face.
Leave the suffering kids and families alone please.

Up 102 Down 20

Al on Oct 14, 2021 at 3:05 pm

...and if you were looking for what I said would happen, you now have it out of the mouth McPhee. Let's see if I have this straight - we will not tell you anything because it will come in the reviews. Sure it will, any wrong doing will be sanitized. As I have said before I also have the Teslin Bridge for sale. Your colleague, McLean, has already made a bid for it - your turn McPhee. Nobody is going to swallow your drivel.

You and your cohorts will do as you have always done. You will " ...cover-up, hide, duck, lie, blame someone else, run for cover, say meaningless things, and just act dumb (the later won't be hard for you at all)".

Frankly McPhee you are a bloody embarrassment to the Yukon. You are not fit to be a Minister of anything let alone an MLA. I am not even going to go on about Silver!!

Shameful - absolutely shameful !

Up 100 Down 16

Lost In the Yukon on Oct 14, 2021 at 3:05 pm

Incredibly disappointed in McPhee ... early on in her tenure as a "politico" she acted with a lot of integrity. Now she has simply become another political hack, spinning, deflecting; and arrogantly saying she has no accountability for this scandal.

There are so many holes in the line of BS she is throwing out (hoping something will stick) that she should be ashamed of herself.

Up 99 Down 17

Gaslighting 101 on Oct 14, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Ah yes, the deflection of blame. Classic narcissistic behaviour. When is the Yukon going to wake up and realize that we have started to accept Liberal gaslighting to the point of Stockholm syndrome?

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