Education Minister Jeanie McLean, Premier Sandy Silver and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee exchange glances during question period on Oct. 15. All three MLAs stood to address opposition questions about Hidden Valley. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Premier and Justice Minister rise in the House on fourth day of Hidden Valley questions

An independent review is expected to be completed by the end of January

Premier Sandy Silver and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee joined Education Minister Jeanie McLean on the floor of the legislature on Oct. 14, responding on the fourth day of questions on the Hidden Valley file.

“My ministers have acknowledged that mistakes have been made, that there was a breakdown in trust between the department, between the families, the school. They have apologized in writing to the parents and to the school community,” said Silver, responding to a question from Brad Cathers.

He did not disclose when he first became aware of the file.

It was the first time the premier rose in the legislature to respond to questions from Yukon Party and NDP opposition.

The two other parties have used almost all their time in Question Period since the fall sitting began to demand answers on how the department of education handled a sexual abuse case at Hidden Valley Elementary School.

Questions have included requests for information on when McLean, Silver and McPhee individually learned of the situation, why the department chose not to inform parents after the conviction of an education assistant, if briefing documents will be released to the public and why McLean originally opposed the Child and Youth Advocate conducting her own investigation.

On Oct. 7, McLean said she wasn’t made aware of the Hidden Valley lawsuit until local media reported on it.

On Oct. 13, McPhee spoke to media outside the legislature and confirmed that she received a briefing note on the situation in 2019. She refused to answer whether or not she had seen a letter drafted to parents on Dec. 18 that was never sent out.

“I would love to answer that, but I know I will be able to answer it through the reviews and ultimately through the investigations,” she said.

She also said she had not spoken to any families from Hidden Valley.

The three politicians have largely dismissed opposition questions in the legislature, referring instead to an official apology and separate reviews being conducted in both the department and the RCMP.

McPhee has insisted she can’t answer questions because they concern evidence in legal cases. The opposition has countered they are not asking questions related to any of the matters currently before the courts.

William Auclair-Bellemare, the education assistant convicted of sexual inference in 2019, is facing an ongoing criminal trial for seven additional charges. There is also an ongoing civil lawsuit between a parent of the original victim and the department of education.

“The premier did finally break his silence on this matter. Unfortunately, he did not provide the information that was asked, which was when he found out,” said opposition leader Currie Dixon.

“They have continuously said […] that we shouldn’t be asking these questions. Quite frankly, I think that’s a little insulting because we are hearing every day, from parents and families affected by this, to ask these questions and to seek these answers,” he added.

Dixon said he has doubts about the independent investigation being conducted on how the department handled the case.

According to the terms of reference released by McLean on Oct. 8, Vancouver-based mediator Amanda Rogers has been hired to undertake the review.

The review will include “findings of fact related to the response of the Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Education and Department of Justice to the incident in 2019” and will be completed by Jan. 31, 2022.

Contact Haley Ritchie at