Whitehorse school council candidate charged with mischief, harassment 3 days before polling day

The entrance of Holy Family Elementary School is seen on Thursday, May 2. (Gabrielle Plonka/CBC  - image credit)
The entrance of Holy Family Elementary School is seen on Thursday, May 2. (Gabrielle Plonka/CBC - image credit)

One of the candidates running for school council at Holy Family Elementary School in Whitehorse is facing criminal charges.

Kenechukwu Onwudinjo was charged on Thursday with two counts of mischief and two counts of harassment.

The school said it cancelled classes at Holy Family last Friday due to a conflict with a parent on Thursday, triggering a hold-and-secure and an RCMP investigation. Parents were told there would be a security guard on school grounds this week.

According to court documents filed by police, Onwudinjo is accused of "banging on windows," "yelling and screaming on numerous occasions" and harassing two Holy Family staff members via email. The allegations, which have not been proven in court, are dated between early April and last Thursday, except for the harassment charge, which allegedly began in early January. The locations of the alleged incidents are not specified in the court documents.

Onwudinjo is prohibited by the court from going within 50 metres of Holy Family. She is also prohibited from contacting two school staff members. Her first appearance in court is set for June 19.

CBC attempted to reach out to Onwudinjo for comment about the allegations, but did not receive a reply.

The charges don't affect the candidate's eligibility for council, according to Elections Yukon spokesperson Maxwell Harvey. Those eligibility requirements are legally baked into the Education Act and out of Elections Yukon's control.

"Whether someone is accused or charged … the right to vote is not lost, and they can stand as a candidate and they can vote and the electors will determine the results," Harvey said.

There are 13 candidates running for Holy Family's five council seats. On Thursday night, about six of the candidates hosted a meet-and-greet for parents.

26 candidates running for three schools

Monday is voting day for the three Yukon schools hosting council elections. The three Catholic schools in Whitehorse all have candidates, while the remaining 14 school councils will be acclaimed. Only four of the acclaimed councils are full.

The unusually high engagement follows a turbulent year for the public Catholic schools.

Earlier this year, parents sounded the alarm on a textbook with homophobic content being used at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Secondary School. The Education department collected the textbook in February, and said that it violated key principles of the territory's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy.

Only one of the current St. Francis council members is running for re-election.

Kathleen Coventry said that she chose not to run for re-election after a difficult term. Division over the gender identity policy consumed many of the council meetings, and Coventry found the discussion archaic and frustrating.

"I wish this was something that was talked about 50 years ago and didn't need to be looked at again," Coventry said.

Coventry wanted council to focus on teen anxiety levels and supporting students who are facing the pressures of a complex world, but the division on council often stymied those discussions.

"I really wanted to do innovative work," Coventry said.

Each school only has five seats on its school council. The biographies of all candidates are available on the Elections Yukon website.

School council elections happen every two years. Councils are responsible for reviewing school policies, consulting on the school calendar, making budget recommendations and helping hire the school principal. Councils may also request teacher evaluations, recommend the dismissal of staff members, and propose locally-developed courses.