Early abuse allegation at Hidden Valley Elementary School 'handled internally,' says Yukon RCMP timeline

·4 min read
Hidden Valley Elementary School in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
Hidden Valley Elementary School in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

Yukon RCMP were not notified of a "concerning" incident in the 2015-16 school year involving a Hidden Valley Elementary School educational assistant in Whitehorse, who has since been charged for the alleged sexual abuse of two more children, according to a police timeline.

Instead, the incident was "handled internally by the school."

Yukon RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard presented the timeline to Hidden Valley school parents at a private meeting, which also included education department officials, on Nov. 9.

Parents as well as a Department of Education spokesperson have since shared Sheppard's speaking notes with the CBC.

The timeline begins in November 2019, when police were first notified of the sexual abuse of a student at the hands of educational assistant William Auclair-Bellemare.

The parent of the victim told school officials about the abuse, which had occurred a week before, on Nov. 17, 2019. Officials notified family and children's services, who in turn notified the RCMP.

Auclair-Bellemare went to school the next morning but was immediately sent home and never returned.

Police met with "school authorities" on Nov. 19, 2019, the timeline continues, and were "then told that one year prior, there was a concerning incident observed by the school involving the first victim" and Auclair-Bellemare which was not reported to police.

However, the RCMP learned a year and a half later that the incident had, in fact, involved another child, leading to the identification of two additional alleged victims.

Parent came forward after CBC story

The discovery came after the CBC reported on a lawsuit filed by the 2019 victim on July 16.

According to the timeline, police received a report from a parent the next day stating that "the incident the teacher spoke of in November of 2019, actually took place with their child during the 2015-16 school year — not the same victim that was reported to police by the school."

"At the time of that incident, the parent advised that they met with the school who informed the parent that the incident had been handled internally by the school," the timeline says.

"It was as a result of this new information, police realized other victims were involved and confirmed the identification of a new victim, not the same victim as the first victim."

Auclair-Bellemare, who had pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on one count of sexual interference with regards to the 2019 victim, was arrested again on Sept. 9 for the alleged abuse of two other children between 2014 and 2018 — including the child involved in the 2015-16 "incident."

Police re-interviewed the teacher about a week later, according to the timeline, who confirmed "that the incident from years prior did not occur with the same" victim identified in 2019 but "was in fact a different child."

The timeline reiterates that the "incident was handled internally by the school."

Auclair-Bellemare has yet to enter pleas or stand trial on the new charges.

The family of a third child has also filed a lawsuit against Auclair-Bellemare, the Education Department and police, also alleging sexual abuse.

In an email to the CBC, Clarissa Wall, education department spokesperson, wrote that the department was "reviewing the information and timelines provided and … will respond to this in more detail soon."

She also wrote that the department would respond to "all parent questions" raised at the Nov. 9 meeting by Nov. 23.

The Yukon RCMP has previously declined to comment on the timeline, citing ongoing court cases. The force has launched a review of its investigation and will be producing a final report on the findings, which Wall said police have indicated will be "provided in the coming weeks."

Officer-in-charge asked about search for other potential victims

Along with key dates in the criminal investigation and proceedings against Auclair-Bellemare, the timeline also notes internal communication as well as communication between police and the education department.

The education department told police on Nov. 19, 2019, that it was starting its own investigation.

RCMP communications then spoke to their counterparts in the education department on Nov. 25, 2019, after the department "asked for advice on messaging that could be provided to the School Principal for a planned meeting with school staff later that afternoon."

The next day, the Yukon RCMP forwarded a situation report to the officer-in-charge of criminal operations, who responded with questions including, "What are we going to do to determine if we have other potential victims?"

The officer-in-charge also wrote that there "should be follow-up discussion with Crown, Strat Comms and Investigators on a strategy that could balance public interest with the interest of the young victim in our search for more potential victims," according to the timeline.

"There has been no documentation to date to reflect if this operational direction was ever followed or discussed – although an ongoing review may produce answers to this issue," the timeline says.

The RCMP also met with an education department communications analyst that day.

The timeline does not say why Hidden Valley parents and the public were not notified about Auclair-Bellemare's arrest.

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