A timeline of the RCMP’s widely-criticized investigation at Hidden Valley Elementary School shows that complaints of inappropriate behaviour date back years earlier than originally thought.
The document tabled at the legislature on Nov. 15 was prepared by the RCMP and presented to Hidden Valley Elementary parents at a meeting on Nov. 9.
Police say they were not initially informed of an incident involving a child and William Auclair-Bellemare, who was a Hidden Valley educational assistant, during the 2015-2016 school year. It was “handled internally by the school.”
The timeline says approximately two weeks before Auclair-Bellemare was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference, police were told about the earlier incident during a meeting with school authorities. School staff told police the incident had taken place about a year prior to their Nov. 19, 2019 meeting and had involved the same victim as the charges that would be filed two weeks later.
RCMP officers interviewed Auclair-Bellemare on Nov. 20, 2019 but the timeline states the interview did not produce initial evidence.
It wasn’t until after media attention surrounding a lawsuit filed against Auclair-Bellemare by the initial victim’s father that the parent of a second victim contacted police.
The RCMP document says they received a report from the second victim’s parent indicating that the 2015-16 incident involved their child.
“At the time of that incident, the parent advised that they met with the school who informed the parent that the incident had been handled internally by the school,” the police timeline reads.
“It was as a result of this new information, police realized other victims were involved and confirmed the identification of a new victim, not the same victim as the first victim. The investigation continued.”
Auclair-Bellemare was arrested again on Sept. 9. The following day, eight new charges were laid against him: One count of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of sexual assault, one count of sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. The police timeline states that the charges are related to multiple alleged offences against two additional victims that took place between 2014 and 2018.
Police say that a week after the new charges were filed, a second interview with a Hidden Valley teacher was conducted and the teacher confirmed that the 2015-16 incident involved a second child.
The RCMP are still investigating whether officers looked for additional victims after the abuse of the first child was reported.
The timeline states that a situation report was provided to a high-ranking officer in charge of criminal operations (Oi/c CROPS) on Nov. 26, 2019. A reply to the Officer in Charge of the Whitehorse detachment asked a number of questions, including what was going to be done to determine if there were other potential victims and whether victim services had been engaged.
“There has been no documentation to date to reflect if this operational direction was ever followed or discussed — although an ongoing review may produce answers to this issue,” the RCMP timeline reads.
Also described is direction from the Oi/c CROPS for a follow up discussion with Crown lawyers, strategic communications staff and RCMP investigators. The subject of discussion was to be “a strategy that could balance public interest with the interest of the victim in the search for more potential victims.”
The timeline also states there was a meeting between the RCMP and a Department of Education communications analyst on Nov. 26, 2019, six days before Auclair-Bellemare was charged.
Neither the public nor the parents of students at Hidden Valley Elementary were told about the charges against him until after media coverage of the lawsuit more than a year after his guilty plea. Parents who spoke to the Yukon News anonymously following the revelations about abuse at the school said police never questioned them, despite their children receiving instruction from Auclair-Bellemare.
Auclair-Bellemare has not entered a plea or stood trial on the new charges.
-With files from Haley Ritchie
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org