3rd lawsuit filed over alleged sexual abuse by Hidden Valley educational assistant in Whitehorse

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Hidden Valley elementary school in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
Hidden Valley elementary school in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

A third lawsuit has been filed over alleged sexual abuse at the hands of an educational assistant at Hidden Valley Elementary School in Whitehorse.

A student and his parents filed a statement of claim to the Yukon Supreme Court last month. The document only recently became publicly available after a judge approved an order to anonymize the plaintiffs' names.

The lawsuit targets former educational assistant William Auclair-Bellemare, the Yukon government Education Department and the Yukon RCMP via the Attorney General of Canada.

No statements of defence had been filed as of Sept. 7.

Like the preceding lawsuits, the statement of claim alleges that the student was in Auclair-Bellemare's care at Hidden Valley, and that Auclair-Bellemare took advantage of the situation to sexually abuse the child in the 2017 and 2018 school years.

The student, according to the document, "has been diagnosed with autism at the severe end of the spectrum" that's resulted in "learning disabilities and communication challenges," making him particularly vulnerable.

The alleged abuse has left both the student and his parents with "physical, mental, emotional and spiritual injuries" the statement of claim alleges.

The lawsuit also claims the Yukon Education Department and RCMP are vicariously liable for the damage and could have prevented the situation.

The Education Department was aware or should have been aware of "past incidents, complaints and predation" involving Auclair-Bellemare, it alleges, but failed to ensure the student's safety and that Auclair-Bellemare was properly supervised.

The RCMP, meanwhile, allegedly failed to properly investigate and inform the school community about previous complaints against Auclair-Bellemare, thereby allowing his behaviour to continue.

The RCMP's alleged negligence and failures, the lawsuit continues, amount to a breach of the student's right to security of person, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The student and parents are seeking compensation for, among other things, aggravated damages, loss of income and earning capacity and legal costs.

The lawsuit, as well as the two filed before it, have yet to be tested at trial.

Auclair-Bellemare is separately awaiting trial on criminal charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of two students. He's pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Auclair-Bellemare previously pleaded guilty in 2020 to one count of sexual interference against another Hidden Valley student, a fact that wasn't widely known until the CBC reported on the lawsuit filed by that victim and his guardian — the first of the three now before the courts.

Besides an outcry from the school community, the situation triggered four investigations or reviews and led to the RCMP laying the new criminal charges against Auclair-Bellemare.

A Yukon government-ordered review found the government's handling of the situation was "inadequate" and led to a number of recommended policy changes.

The results of an internal review by the Yukon RCMP and investigations and reviews by the Yukon Ombudsman and Yukon Child and Youth Advocate are still pending.