MPs sending rude texts will receive anti-bullying training, said Yukon Party leader
According to their party leader, two Yukon Party MPs who have engaged in vulgar textual conversation about some of their political opponents will receive anti-bullying and harassment training.
The Yukon Party has been in damage control mode since the text conversation involving MPs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko – two former cabinet ministers – was made public earlier this week.
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon apologized earlier this week and kicked the two MPs out of his party’s legislative committees and shadow cabinet. On Thursday, Dixon responded to growing pressure to further punish MPs, and said they would be enrolled in some training and education programs.
“We will be looking at the options that are available for this training and education, and we are aware of a number of programs that currently exist. But we want to make sure that we find the ones that are best suited for the situation,” Dixon said.
“Both MPs are sincere in their commitment to learn from this incident and better understand the issues.”
Dixon said his party would also develop a respectful workplace policy that will apply to all MPs, party staff and volunteers.
“ Blatantly transphobic ”
The exchange of texts involved Hassard, Istchenko and several others. The Liberal Party went public, saying Premier Sandy Silver appeared to have been inadvertently included in the panel discussion.
The texts contained rude comments about the three Yukon political party leaders, including references to their genitals.
The White River First Nation in Kluane riding in Istchenko called on their MP to step down, while other Indigenous groups urged Dixon to blame the two MPs for their “heinous” behavior and “Systemic violence” behind their offensive remarks.
Queer Yukon, a local advocacy group, released a statement Wednesday calling the exchange of MPs’ texts “blatantly transphobic” and “dehumanizing” with a focus on the genitals.
Mona Luxion, president of Queer Yukon, also said on Thursday that the question went beyond those particular comments. Luxion spoke of a “gap” between the party’s public face and its less public discourse.
The Yukon Party actively campaigned this spring on an inclusive platform, Luxion said.
“And I think it’s really disappointing to see these kinds of comments coming less than a month after this engagement was made public,” they said.
“There seems to be a disconnect between what we hear from management and what we can see with our own eyes.”
The deputies are silent
Neither Hassard nor Istchenko have spoken publicly about their texts, beyond brief written statements of apology earlier this week. Dixon said Thursday he had not muzzled MPs.
Dixon says it’s his job as party leader to try to mend the relationship.
Luxion acknowledged that Queer Yukon got a “quick response” from Dixon, who told them he shared the group’s concerns and offered to meet.
Dixon also said Thursday that he plans to speak to Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston, who has called for tougher sentences for MPs, including unpaid suspensions.
“It’s up to me to engage with these groups,” Dixon said.
“We’ll find a way forward to build those relationships. I mean, at the end of the day, you know, we’ll have to work together to move forward.”
In the meantime, Hassard and Istchenko will have less important roles in the next legislature, but their salaries will not be cut, Dixon said.
“I, or the Legislature, do not have the capacity to restrict wages, so as far as I know there will be no change in the way they are paid.”
When asked if the texts revealed larger systemic issues in his party, Dixon avoided a straightforward answer.
“Two MPs made inappropriate and offensive comments and they should be reprimanded for it, they should apologize for it and they should try to learn from them and move forward,” he said.
“And that’s what I think happened here.”