Despite growing public pressure from Yukon First Nations groups for two Yukon Party MLAs to resign after sending inappropriate text messages in a group chat, their political party says they’ll receive sensitivity training – and has made no indication that the MLAs will lose their positions.
On April 30 Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko texted sexually crude remarks in a group chat about Liberal leader Sandy Silver, NDP leader Kate White and their own leader Currie Dixon.
Silver and Dixon were also added into the conversation though neither replied to the messages.
On May 2 Silver released screenshots of the messages to the media stating he believes he was accidentally added into the conversation and that the Liberal party “believe(s) this text behaviour is unacceptable.”
Hassard and Istchenko have since issued public apologies for the messages.
Last week Dixon announced Hassard and Istchenko would be banned from sitting on any legislative committees or from serving as critics for the party’s shadow cabinet.
Yukon First Nations groups including the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Assembly of Nations Yukon Region have also called for stricter punishment of the MLAs, like suspension from part of Session 35 of the Legislative Assembly without pay.
White River First Nation, which is in Istchenko’s MLA riding, announced they’ll no longer work with him and are calling for his resignation.
Chief Bessie Chasse told APTN News “If they’re doing this to their colleagues, I guess my fear was are they doing it to any other community, to any other businesses, and other First Nations? It kind of adds on to if they’re doing it to them, who else are they doing it to?”
The Pelly Banks government of the Kaska Nation, whose MLA is Hassard, has also issued a scathing press release accusing Hassard of ignoring his Kaska constituents and demanding his resignation and a by-election for a new MLA.
It states “What kind of message are you sending Mr. Dixon, that if a white male makes such remarks, it is considered nothing more than bravado or juvenile locker-room banter?…Your lack of leadership is causing tremendous effects especially to us who are directly in Stacey’s riding.”
Late last week Dixon issued a press release stating the party has been “reviewing appropriate next steps including reviewing the Yukon Legislative Assembly Respectful Conduct Policy that was brought into force in 2019.”
It goes on to say “Despite the policy intending to offer training and resources for MLAs regarding respectful conduct, the newness of the policy has meant that those resources are not yet in place and available to MLAs. “
The release also says Hassard and Istchenko will be enrolled in workplace bullying and harassment prevention training and that Dixon will be directing the Yukon Party to establish a respectful workplace policy that will apply to all MLAs, staff, and volunteers.
There’s also been no indication from Dixon that more severe punishments like removing Hassard and Istchenko from caucus will be taking place.