Carmacks, Yukon, school unsafe for students, First Nation says

·2 min read
Tantalus Community School in Carmacks, Yukon. The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation says it's received numerous complaints about the school in recent months and wants to see immediate action from the Yukon government in response.  (Anna Desmarais/CBC  - image credit)
Tantalus Community School in Carmacks, Yukon. The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation says it's received numerous complaints about the school in recent months and wants to see immediate action from the Yukon government in response. (Anna Desmarais/CBC - image credit)

The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation in Yukon says it's fielding "numerous" troubling reports from parents about the safety of their children at the local school, and that some parents were opting to keep their kids home.

The First Nation also says the Yukon government has not done enough to respond to those concerns.

In a letter to Yukon's Education minister last month, Chief Nicole Tom referred to reports from parents about inappropriate sexual comments made to students by school staff, unsupervised children, and bullying and discrimination against students with learning disabilities.

"The concerning reports that we have heard about the Tantalus [Community] School are serious and engage the immediate and urgent health, safety and wellbeing of our children," the letter states.

Tom says the First Nation raised these complaints in two meetings with Jeanie McLean, the Yukon's Education minister, and her staff in February and again in April. She said the matter was becoming more urgent as more parents decided to keep their kids home.

"This is entirely unacceptable," the letter reads. "We cannot sit idly by in light of the serious and increasing concerns shared with us while there is silence from [the Yukon government]."

The letter asks the Yukon government to provide an immediate update with information on how officials are responding to the parents' reports, including a timeline for what the First Nation calls an "internal fact finding" process at the school.

"These issues cannot wait to be addressed until the next school year," the letter reads. "By then, it will be too late.

"We cannot wait any longer to make the Tantalus School a safe and positive educational environment for everyone."

Paul Tukker/CBC
Paul Tukker/CBC

Clarissa Ward, a spokesperson for the Yukon government's Education Department, confirmed the department has conducted "human resources investigations" into staff at the Tantalus school, but did not share further details due to privacy concerns.

Ward said the department has also sent several high-ranking staff, including the assistant deputy minister, to the school in recent months to "provide additional oversight, hear concerns and provide support."

"We will continue conversations with Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation about how we can work together on joint educational and other shared priorities," the statement said.

The department encourages any parents with concerns to reach out to their superintendent.

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