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Vainio resigns from human rights board

An adjudicator with the Yukon Human Rights Board, accused by her colleagues of holding negative stereotypes towards natives, has resigned.

An adjudicator with the Yukon Human Rights Board, accused by her colleagues of holding negative stereotypes towards natives, has resigned.

Michelle Vainio confirmed Wednesday that she has tendered her resignation, although she wouldn’t say why.

“I could have a million things to say to you, but I won’t,” she said.

Vainio, best-known from her recent term as Faro’s mayor, was appointed to the board more than two years ago, in November of 2008.

At the time, a human rights complaint was underway that pitted her and several town councillors against Les Carpenter, who alleged they didn’t hire him as their senior administrative officer because of his First Nation ancestry.

The board found no evidence that discrimination occurred when it dismissed the case in January, but it did conclude that Vainio and other councillors “held some negative stereotypes about First Nation people, or Indians.”

The stereotype in question seems to be the idea that First Nations have trouble showing up for work on time. Another councillor said, while working at Faro mine, he observed First Nations had a different “notion of time,” and didn’t believe it to be a slur.

Vainio agreed, saying during cross-examination that “she recognized cultural differences with First Nation peoples in their concepts of time.”

The Yukon Human Rights Commission, a body that vets complaints of discrimination before referring them to the board, recently seized on these comments as evidence that Vainio ought to go.

It’s important for board members to be seen as “nondiscriminatory” by the public, commission chair Melissa Atkinson said in a past interview. “My overall concern is to maintain public confidence in the process,” she said.

She had called on Justice Minister Marian Horne to remedy the matter.

Atkinson also worried that Vainio had a dim view of the commission, noting that the lawyer representing Vainio and the Town of Faro slagged the commission, arguing that the case, which stretched over five and a half years, was “vexatious” in an effort to have the commission pay costs and damages to the town. He didn’t succeed.

Vainio hasn’t actually participated as an adjudicator since her appointment. The board screens its members for possible conflicts of interest before it assembles a panel of three to hear a complaint.

Vainio’s resolution helps solve another embarrassment with the adjudication board: it currently has too many members.

The board is only supposed to have six, according to new rules passed in December. But it has eight.

Following Vainio’s resignation, it will still have one member too many. It remains unclear whether the territory will fix the problem by changing the law or removing one additional member.

Contact John Thompson at