Yukon legislature votes for motion calling on deputy premier to step down
Published Wednesday, October 27, 2021 9:38PM EDT
Yukon MLA Tracy-Ann McPhee recites the Oaths of Office with Yukon Commissioner Angelique Bernard at the swearing in ceremony in the Yukon Government Legislature foyer, in Whitehorse, Monday, May 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Kelly
WHITEHORSE -- Yukon's deputy premier faced a barrage of questions in the legislature Wednesday over her handling of a 2019 sexual assault investigation at a Whitehorse elementary school.
The legislature voted in favour of a non-binding motion calling for deputy premier Tracy-Anne McPhee to resign over her time as education minister when a sexual assault charge was laid against an employee of the Hidden Valley elementary school.
The employee pleaded guilty to sexual interference and spent six months in jail.
He has since been charged with four more sex-related counts in relation to two other students, and none of the allegations from those charges have been proven in court.
The motion calling on McPhee to resign passed 11-7 in the legislature.
Brad Cathers, a member of the Opposition Yukon party, accused McPhee in the legislature of knowing about the original allegation and failing to inform parents.
"Ministers are expected to take responsibility for the actions of their department, but most importantly they are expected to take responsibility for their own actions," he said.
McPhee didn't reply to the motion, but Premier Sandy Silver told the house some of their comments were inaccurate and his government took the situation at the school seriously.
NDP Leader Kate White said the minister needed to "own up" to her mistakes and step down from cabinet.
Parents at the elementary school say they found out about the allegations in July, more than a year after the original charges were laid, when media outlets reported on a civil lawsuit.
There are four investigations into what happened at the school as well as the government's handling of the allegations, including one launched by the territory's ombudsman. The Yukon Child and Youth Advocate has also initiated a review of the Education Ministry's policies and actions.
Education Minister Jeanie McLean has hired a lawyer to conduct an independent review of the government's handling of the 2019 sexual assault investigation at Hidden Valley.
Earlier this month, McLean said her department now recognizes it "made a mistake" by not informing parents of the situation. The review will provide recommendations for improving government policies.
The RCMP and the Department of Education have also apologized for their handling of the investigation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.