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Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon and Education Minister Jeanie McLean

Premier’s office advised McLean on advocate: YP

The Hidden Valley School debacle continued to plague the Yukon government and – in particular, embattled Education Minister Jeanie McLean – on Tuesday.

By Tim Giilck on October 13, 2021

The Hidden Valley School debacle continued to plague the Yukon government and – in particular, embattled Education Minister Jeanie McLean – on Tuesday.

Virtually every question during question period was directed at McLean during the afternoon session.

She was grilled relentlessly by both opposition parties, but continued to stonewall the opposition.

“Last week, the minister of Education told Yukoners that she did not learn about the issues related to sexual abuse of students by an educational assistant at Hidden Valley school until she heard about them in local media in July,” Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said in his first salvo.

“The minister of Education stated clearly that this issue was not something that she was briefed on either during transition or at any point before July 16, when the CBC story was published.

“This means that, for two days, no one made her aware of the major lawsuit against her department that was filed on July 14, and it also means that, for over two months, no one made her aware of these serious charges and allegations that took place in a school that she is responsible for,” Dixon said.

“Can the minister of Education offer any explanation as to why she was left out of the loop by her department, her deputy minister (Nicole Morgan), and the former minister (Tracy-Anne McPhee) on this issue?”

(William Auclair-Bellemare, 34, a former educational assistant at the school, served a jail term for sexual interference involving a child at Hidden Valley.

The Department of Education did not inform other parents of what had occurred. The parents of the youngster involved have launched a civil lawsuit against Auclair-Bellemare and the government.)

Reading from prepared notes Tuesday, McLean said more than 10 times that she has initiated an independent review of the school to examine where and why the situation went so far off the rails.

She also reiterated frequently that she is co-operating with a review by the Child and Youth Advocate’s office.

The one intriguing new piece of information that emerged during the afternoon was McLean telling the legislature the premier’s office was behind a dispute between the Department of Education and child advocate Annette King over the review.

King’s office announced over the summer it would carry out its own review,

McLean responded in short order, telling the Star the government did not believe the advocate has the authority to conduct such an investigation.

That position persisted for several weeks – until it was quietly dropped.

Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent told the assembly that opinion and statement came directly from the premier’s office, rather than from McLean’s staff.

According to Kent, she was directed to include it.

The Yukon Party said it has an email from Matthew Cameron, the manager of communications for the Office of the Premier, showing he had directed that position to McLean.

The Yukon Party provided the email to the Star, though the contents are not as clear as the party suggested.

The email from Cameron to Erin MacDonald – then a spokesperson for the Department of Education – is dated Aug. 6.

“Hi Matthew, I understand that you may have an updated Message Box that was developed to support the Minister’s interviews this morning on Hidden Valley. If so, would you mind sharing so that we have the most up to date version in our files?” MacDonald wrote.

She is no longer employed with the government.

“Hi Erin, please see notes attached, adapted from the letters that went out yesterday,” the email response from Cameron stated.

Those notes include a clear reference to the advocate’s office.

“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. 

“I recognize the important work of the Child and Youth Advocate Office. My officials are in communication with her office and are planning to meet to discuss the situation.”

King told the Star in August the government’s opinion about her legal authority, which she has encountered in the past, is completely wrong – and did not rule out court action to prove it.

Dixon said it’s clear from the email there was interference from the premier’s office.

Premier Sandy Silver did not rise in the legislature Tuesday to address the issue.

Kent continued to grill McLean about how she could possibly not have been advised about the Hidden Valley School situation in her briefing notes when she took over the portfolio last spring.

Last week, McLean told the legislature she was not aware of the situation at the school until media reports were published in mid-July.

At the time, Dixon said that “strained credulity”, a phrase he used again on Tuesday.

Since making that statement, McLean has refused to address the issue again.

After question period, NDP Leader Kate White called the entire situation “unacceptable.”

She shied away, though, from promising any concrete action on the situation.

The NDP holds the balance power in the assembly since the Liberals and Yukon Party are tied with eight seats apiece.

The NDP signed the so-called Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Liberals in late April to prop up their government.

White was asked bluntly what the NDP is prepared to do about the ongoing school scandal she called “unacceptable.”

She would say only more options will be considered in the future.

She wouldn’t commit herself to more concrete action.

On Sept. 10, it was announced that the previous day, the Yukon RCMP Specialized Response Unit had again arrested Auclair-Bellemare.

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

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

He had worked at several schools before the original charge was laid in 2019.

Comments (13)

Up 34 Down 5

King for a day on Oct 14, 2021 at 6:21 pm

I think The DM of Education and the ADM of public school should be immediately fired for their role in this. They are the choke point of this entire mess. It is their job to deal with these situations, not sweep them under the carpet. They know better but chose self preservation over defenceless children.

McPhee and McLean should be stripped of their portfolios pending the outcome of the independent investigation.
Stop pissing away valuable time in the House creating sound bites and do the work you were elected to do… all sides of the Legislature.

Up 36 Down 6

Nathan Living on Oct 14, 2021 at 11:51 am

Children are important.

A letter should have gone out to all parents at that school when the alleged abuse was discovered.

The legal advice should have been ignored for an abundance of caution for children; had this happened the parents would be praising the Dept of Education.

Up 31 Down 11

Yukong on Oct 14, 2021 at 11:49 am

After reading JWR's new book, I'm realizing this whole debacle is EXACTLY out of the playbook of the federal liberals. Nothing happens without the say-so from the guy on the top. Wouldn't surprise me if he's got Ms White doing his errands as well. How's that working out for you?

Up 32 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Oct 14, 2021 at 8:46 am

I wonder if there is any truth to the suggestion that Trudeau's spin doctors have been parachuted in to help deflect this matter? Arrogance is demonstrated to be the Liberal brand.
School aged kids are hearing what is happening in this one -sided Q&A, I wonder what they are thinking?

Up 30 Down 6

YukonMax on Oct 14, 2021 at 8:26 am

But I thought someone said "sorry".
Didn't that fix everyting?

Up 30 Down 9

Brenda on Oct 14, 2021 at 5:09 am

Just more of the same - without a doubt this is the group home scandal all over again. Lies, cover up, more lies, no consequences for those “in charge” like the Minister, Deputy Minister when the truth finally comes out. This is what liberals do about wrongdoing - lie and attempt to cover up wrongdoing- get caught - apologize and move on. Rinse and repeat nothing new here.

Up 27 Down 17

Adam Smith on Oct 13, 2021 at 11:59 pm

Remove the smoke and mirrors. Kids got abused on the liberal watch. They did not cause this. They can (and have) fixed it. What's the issue? Own up and move on . There is nothing partisan here other than the libs not being able to admit one person made a call. That person needs to go.

Kids got abused. One person decided that should be hidden. That is all this is about. It is shameful the YP has to point this out question after question.
I note our Premier is too busy to comment on these continued attacks on the integrity of his team.

Up 10 Down 45

Yukoner32 on Oct 13, 2021 at 8:47 pm

Nice to see a strong woman like Mclean standing strong against the attacks by Creepy Currie and his cohort. He is only interested in facts or narratives that make Liberal ministers look bad. If information came out that the major fault for all of this was with the internal bureaucrats or RCMP - he would suddenly no longer care. Guaranteed.

Up 37 Down 7

Pokemeinthearm on Oct 13, 2021 at 7:42 pm

It's so clear that the layers of dishonesty run right down the core of the Yukon Liberals.

These folks all campaigned under the tagline "Let's keep going". The party leadership was obviously fully aware of this situation and tried to bury it deep before the election. So, "Let's keep going" just translates to "We're going to keep lying to you and doing whatever we possibly can to hold onto power (and pensions)"

Let's hope the Confidence And Supply Agreement falls apart and Slippery Sandy ends up with a non-confidence motion in his lap. I don't think Yukon voters will fall for the Liberal BS next time around.

Up 16 Down 10

martin on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:26 pm

The NDP doesn't deserve the seats they got. Experience shows the NDP is weak and fearful to lose the few seats they get. If they are not going to function as they should, might as well choose a Liberal MLA.

Up 28 Down 4

Matthew on Oct 13, 2021 at 5:09 pm

What's the battle!? Start locking people up for pedophilia! Imagine if that was your kid.. think about it! Then imagine they turned away while he did it to someone else.. that's WHAT happened!!

Up 98 Down 11

Al on Oct 13, 2021 at 4:17 pm

Well there is one way of dealing with the Minister if she does not want to be open, transparent and honest. That is to censor her in the legislature. It is quite evident that it is more important for the Liberals to obfuscate than to be straight forward with the general public. This so called "investigation" will be sanitized, erased, manipulated while the real truth will be buried, never to come to light. Why, well it will be hidden in the TOR given to the reviewer as to how much may be revealed. After we already know that this very expensive do nothing report is meant to have a very, very narrow encompass just a fraction of the period in question and restricted to a period in 2019.

As for the NDP - just like their friends in Ottawa they will say all kinds of stuff in public and in the Leg, while supping on martinis, whilst not in the legislature, with their pals - the Liberals. Likely laughing at how the proceedings are unfolding.

In the meantime it is 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 them at all). And - we call this democracy. Being held responsible and accountable simple are just words with no substance in their meaning.

Up 100 Down 8

Thomas Brewer on Oct 13, 2021 at 4:07 pm

if it sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, and most importantly smells like a duck then it's a duck.

And by duck I mean political interference. Has a particularly nefarious odour.

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