No charges after RCMP investigation into holds, seclusion at Whitehorse's Jack Hulland school

Jack Hulland Elementary School in Whitehorse. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC - image credit)

RCMP say no criminal charges will be laid after an investigation into the alleged use of holds and isolation spaces at Whitehorse's Jack Hulland Elementary School.

The decision was made based "on the entirety of the evidence that was collected," police said in a news release on Wednesday afternoon.

The criminal investigation began in November 2021 when police became aware of allegations that students had been placed in holds and in isolation spaces at the school. Police said at the time that the goal would be "primarily to ensure student safety and to conduct a criminal investigation into these matters."

Two years later, in September 2023, RCMP said they had completed their investigation. They said officers with the detachment's general investigation section had spoken with 190 people and reviewed more than 600 reports obtained from the school, the education department, and parents and caregivers since November 2021.

On Wednesday, police said they had updated the school community about the conclusion of the investigation with a letter sent through the school. They also said Victim Services had been updated "in order to continue to offer supports," and investigating officers had updated people involved.

The news release says police will not comment further, "due to other ongoing judicial processes."

Last year, the Yukon Supreme Court gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit by students and parents at Jack Hulland who allege that a number of students at the school were subject to holds, restraints and seclusion between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2022. The Yukon Department of Education is named as the defendant. None of those allegations have been proven in court.

James Tucker, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said in a text to CBC News on Wednesday afternoon that he was not surprised by the outcome of the police investigation, and that there was a difference between criminal prosecution and civil liability.

He added that his legal team still intends to "vigorously" pursue the class action "regardless of the decision to not prosecute."

One of the parents who helped launch the lawsuit said in a separate statement on Wednesday that the RCMP "did an important public service by investigating the allegations, listening to witnesses, and collecting important evidence," and that the decision to not lay criminal charges, "is not a determination that the incidents did not happen, or that the incidents did not meet the threshold for civil liability."

CBC News is not naming the parent to protect her child's identity.

"The goal of the class action lawsuit was never to have school staff criminally charged. Rather, the goal is to bring the mistreatment of Jack Hulland students into the light, and create systemic change in the approach to discipline employed by the school," the parent wrote.

"That change has already begun, and will hopefully continue as the case unfolds."