Vanier elections breaks voter turnout record

There's a new school council at Vanier Catholic Secondary, voted in by the highest voter turnout in the school's history during elections on Monday night.

There’s a new school council at Vanier Catholic Secondary, voted in by the highest voter turnout in the school’s history during elections on Monday night.

Diane Tait is the only returning councillor, having served on the previous Vanier school council and the Catholic Education Association of Yukon. Tait’s husband and daughter are both teachers at the school.

The new members are Shannon Cooper, Edith Edler and Michael Lauer. Maureen Long also joints the new council as the only sitting member with children who attend the school.

Two hundred and ninety electors showed up to cast ballots, up from 134 in the 2012 election. In all, 596 voters cast ballots in six school elections across the territory.

Vanier was the only Catholic school to have an election this year. Parents, school area residents and church parishioners are all allowed to vote for Catholic school elections, but there is some concern over how much influence the church may have had on Monday’s vote.

Tjitska van der Eide raised questions about a letter handed out by the church which warned its faithful, in bold print, to “discern carefully those candidates who are in full agreement” with the church’s mission statement and values.

Van der Eide’s husband, John Berg, was running in the election. He was the only candidate to speak openly about urging the Education Department to conclude its negotiations with Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon and clarify the bishop’s powers and roles within the schools.

Van der Eide said the latest letter from the church is a veiled attempt to influence who the parishioners vote for.

“We believe that it’s not meant to sway people one way or the other? I would not believe that,” she said.

Prior to the previous Vanier school council election, the bishop named certain candidates in the church newsletter, highlighting their status as parishioners and suggesting they would appreciate the votes of their fellows.

Four of the five candidates the bishop named won their seats, but many called the apparent endorsement problematic.

This time around, van der Eide said the church has been more careful, but the intention remains the same.

“It all looks very politically correct, but I think if you read between the lines it’s all there,” she said.

According to Leah White, another outspoken critic of the bishop who ran in the election herself, the church told its parishioners who to vote for.

“They didn’t put it in a newsletter this time,” White said. “This time they’re being more cloak-and-dagger about it.”

White said a number of people called the church prior to the election and, without identifying themselves, asked the church for guidance. Two numbers were included on the church’s letter, and those people – Dawn Kobewka and John Robbins – both read from a list of five candidates.

The News also placed anonymous calls to the church and asked who to vote for. A woman who answered at Maryhouse in Whitehorse gave three names: Diane Tait, Edith Elder, and Shannon Cooper before pausing.

“Hold on, let me get the list,” she said, before continuing to name Kam Cos and Michael Lauer.

On a separate call, John Robbins gave the same list of names.

In an interview with the News on Monday, Robbins said the church’s letter was not meant to influence voters, but only to encourage them to get out and vote.

“What we’re trying to encourage is that … parishioners make up their own minds. We want them to participate in the election,” Robbins said.

Last year saw some deep divisions among the councillors at Vanier in the wake of a controversy over the school’s sexual orientation policy, which called homosexuality an intrinsic moral evil and forbade students from forming gay-straight alliances.

In the wake of a public outcry, the Education Department ordered the offending policy removed, and a department-wide policy implemented. The school now has a gay-straight alliance.

Deputy minister Valerie Royle promised the role of the bishop in setting policy would be defined by the start of the 2014/15 school year. That hasn’t happened, the department says, because of delays on the bishop’s part.

Contact Jesse Winter at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read