Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon is apologizing after crude text messages written by members of his party about Premier Sandy Silver and NDP Leader Kate White emerged over the weekend.
The premier’s office sent screenshots of the texts to the media late Sunday, quoting Silver saying that the messages were sent to him in a group chat he believes he was included in inadvertently.
The texts include inappropriate comments about all three leaders, including at least five references to and comparisons between the sizes of their genitalia.
One message made assumptions about Silver’s sexual preferences in a crude manner.
‘Inappropriate and rude messages’
Former interim leader of the party and re-elected MLA Stacey Hassard as well as fellow re-elected MLA Wade Istchenko are two of the people who made the comments in the group chat.
Dixon was also a member of the chat.
Ted Laking, a spokesperson for the Yukon Party, told CBC via email the chat was created by a private citizen who is unassociated with the party on Friday morning, and therefore he said he did not know why it was created or why certain people were added.
Dixon initially sent an apology to Silver through text message, stating that he was aware Hassard and Istchenko were involved in the “inappropriate and rude messages.” Dixon said in his informal text apology to Silver that he had spoken with Istchenko and Hassard, and that they were both apologetic.
In a statement released late Sunday evening, Silver called the behaviour “unacceptable” and said his party is interested to know how Dixon plans to address it.
“I am sharing these [screenshots] with the media because Yukoners should be aware of the culture that is considered acceptable within the Yukon Party,” said Silver.
White, in an interview Monday afternoon, said Silver shared the texts with her shortly after he received them Friday.
She described them as “gross,” but said that while some of the messages were directed at her, the underlying issues go beyond any single person.
“I don’t think this isn’t just about me,” she told CBC. “I think this is about the society that we want to live in, you know? We tell our kids that comments like this don’t belong at school and they don’t belong in locker rooms or on the field, and then in the same breath, these are two elected leaders and they’re showing a terrible example.
“So to me, it’s disappointing. And I believe that people, like people deserve better than that.”
“This is something that they thought they were saying in private,” she added, “so what gets said behind closed doors?”
White said Dixon had reached out to her both via text and a phone call, but that she had not heard directly from either Hassard or Istchenko.
A previous version of this story did not include a screenshot of the messages. The CBC has added the image after reaching out to the politicians targeted in the messages.
Warning: The following image is a screenshot containing crude and sexually explicit messages:
‘I regret these foolish and immature actions’
The Yukon Party released a formal apology just after midnight on Monday, a few hours after Silver released his statement.
“As soon as I saw these [comments], I immediately spoke with both of them candidly and am confident they understand how offensive and unprofessional these comments are,” said Dixon.
He said both of the elected officials have apologized and committed themselves to learning from the incident and “devoting themselves to advocating for a safe and respectful Yukon.”
Dixon added that as a result of these messages, neither of the MLAs will be allowed to sit on any legislative committees, or be given critic roles when the party establishes their shadow cabinet.
“This is an important opportunity for all Yukoners to realize that words matter and that we need to actively advocate for a respectful community,” Dixon said.
The statement also included brief apologies from both of the MLAs who made the comments.
“I regret these foolish and immature actions,” said Hassard. “I apologize unreservedly and will take the lessons from this mistake to advocate for a territory where all Yukoners feel welcome.”
Wade Istchenko said his actions were immature and “unacceptable.”
“I sincerely apologize for making these comments and am deeply embarrassed by them. I commit to learning from these mistakes.”
CBC put in requests to speak with Dixon, Istchenko and Hassard further. All three declined interviews.