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Yukon government reports progress on Safer Schools Action Plan

New training and policies in place in wake of failure to seek further sexual exploitation victims
Hidden Valley School. (Yukon News file)

The Yukon government has offered an update on the actions they promised earlier this year in response to revelations of sexual abuse by a staff member at Hidden Valley Elementary School.

In February, the government pledged to take 23 steps in response to an outside review of the handling of the abuse complaint and subsequent investigation.

The investigation came after former Hidden Valley Elementary School education assistant Wiliam Auclair-Bellemare was convicted in January 2021 for sexual interference with a student. Once the abuse was made public following media coverage of a lawsuit by the victim’s parents, the government and RCMP’s response was broadly criticized.

Auclair-Bellemare was eventually charged with offences involving two additional victims, also students at the school, once the investigation was reopened.

Reviews of government’s handling of the investigation were launched by a Vancouver-based lawyer named Amanda Rogers and the office of the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate. The Yukon RCMP’s investigation was reviewed by an RCMP division in British Columbia.

Among the steps the Yukon government pledged to take were enhanced training, better information sharing and more engagement with parents and the rest of the community.

On July 21, the Yukon government circulated a progress report on what they are calling the Safer Schools Action Plan which they say is well on its way to improve coordination in the face of serious incidents, address gaps in the Yukon department of Education policies and improve safety and oversight.

The progress report states that a detailed training plan for all school staff has been developed with the goal of teaching about prevention, detection and reporting of serious incidents involving harm to students. It says training for school principals will start over the summer and be complete by the start of the school year. Training resources and materials for other staff in schools are being finalized.

Other actions the government says it is taking include the establishment of a parent advisory committee for Hidden Valley Elementary, drafting a policy on the reporting and prevention of serious incidents at schools and working to establish a serious incident group to coordinate responses to serious incidents involving government employees.

Timelines offered for the 23 points the government committed to earlier this year ranged from three months to more than a year.

“The outcomes of this work are extremely important. We are pleased to share the progress to date and know there is still much work to do to build back trust and to repair and restore confidence in our ability to respond to serious incidents that may arise in the Yukon’s school system,” said Premier Sandy Silver.

“We have taken and will continue to take meaningful steps that will have a positive impact not just within the Yukon’s school communities, but across all aspects of the territory’s public service. We are committed to sharing additional updates in the coming months.”

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Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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