Yukon Party MLAs Wade Istchenko and Stacey Hassard are facing criticism for crude text messages in a group chat. (Submitted)

Yukon Party MLAs Wade Istchenko and Stacey Hassard are facing criticism for crude text messages in a group chat. (Submitted)

First Nations leaders call for stricter punishment of Yukon Party MLAs

Queer Yukon has also criticized the two individuals involved in an inappropriate group chat

A number of organizations, including White River First Nation, Assembly of First Nations Yukon and the Council of Yukon First Nations are calling for the resignation or penalization of Yukon Party MLAs Wade Istchenko and Stacey Hassard after obscene texts referencing the genitalia of elected officials came to light.

“We expect a much higher standard of professionalism from the Kluane riding MLA that is supposed to represent our interests and voices as members of the riding,” said White River First Nation Chief Bettie Chasse in an open letter addressed to party leader Currie Dixon and dated May 4.

The letter references the “crude nature and sexually violent tone” of the messages and states that White River will no longer work with , which represents their riding of Kluane.

Erika Gilson, executive director of an independent Kaska organization self-titled the Pelly Banks Government, which falls within Hassard’s riding, also released a strongly-worded letter on May 6.

“His behaviour is not an opportunity for growth and learning,” wrote Gilson, calling for the MLAs resignation and frustration in the community of Ross River over his performance as an elected official. “This man is not a person that we can stand by or passively accept his weak apology, for no apology can disregard his gross behaviour.”

Like White River, Gilson said the First Nations government will no longer work with Hassard.

The AFN and CYFN echoed those calls on May 5, but called for Dixon to discipline both MLAs.

“Yukon First Nations have expressed deep concern over the misogynistic nature of the comments in the publicly disclosed texts that serve to demean both men and women in leadership,” reads the letter from the two umbrella organizations that included quotes from Regional Chief Kluane Adamek and Grand Chief Peter Johnston.

“The removal of the MLAs from standing committees and critic roles in the shadow cabinet while still receiving full pay does nothing to penalize the MLAs,” continues the letter, which calls for both MLAs to be suspended without pay for all or part of the upcoming sitting.

On Sunday the Liberal party released screenshots of a private text message chat that the premier was “inadvertently” invited to join. The screenshots show the two MLAs bantering with other individuals about the size and abilities of the penises of other elected officials.

References were made to the genitals and sexual activity of all three party leaders.

While Dixon and MLA Scott Kent were not involved in the conversation, they were present in the chat. Dixon released an apology following the Liberal party release.

Yukon Party pledges harrassment training

Dixon declined to speak about the incident with the Yukon News on May 5, but the Yukon Party released a statement instead, that said “Dixon apologized to both Sandy Silver and Kate White. Our statement on Monday included a formal apology, as well as specific apologies from both MLAs involved, and the serious reprimands that have been issued.”

Both MLAs will also lose their roles in the shadow cabinet and will not be sitting on legislative committees.

Queer Yukon has also released an open letter addressed to the party. While it did not call for resignations, it does point out that the comments made in the chat reflect sexist, homophobic and transphobic attitudes.

“These comments and their focus on an individual’s genitalia are not only rude — they are dehumanizing and promote a dangerous culture of transphobia in the Yukon,” reads the letter. “In 2021, we are profoundly disappointed to find elected officials who are more concerned with an individual’s genitals than with their ideas, passion for community, or integrity.”

Dixon said the two MLAs will be undertaking training for workplace bullying and harassment prevention. The party is also saying it will implement a “respectful workplace policy.”

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Clarification: an earlier version of this article referred to the Pelly Banks Government of the Kaska Nation. This is an independent organization.

Yukon legislative assembly

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