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Whistler Kids tightens security

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Criminal background checks now required of every employee

Every employee at Whistler Kids will have a criminal background check done before they start work in December, Whistler-Blackcomb officials said this week.

"Even if you are working in the kitchen you are getting a criminal background check and that is just due diligence," said Kirby Brown, director of employee experience for Whistler-Blackcomb.

"We have always done criminal record checks but this year every single Whistler Kids employee will have had a background check done before they can start work."

That will include all returning staff as well, said Brown.

It has always been policy at Whistler-Blackcomb to carry out criminal checks. But Brown admitted some employees were missed by the private company Whistler-Blackcomb used to do the checks.

One of those missed was a Whistler Kid’s employee who was charged earlier this year with several sex offences against children in Whistler and remains in custody awaiting a January trial date.

The charges do not stem from incidents at the ski school.

There is a court order banning publication of the alleged sex offender’s identity in order to protect the complainants.

The man was arrested April 28. He is charged with three counts of sexual interference, three counts of invitation to sexual touching, and three counts of sexual assault all on pre-teen children.

The accused, an Australian in his late 20s, lived in Whistler for just over a year. During that time he worked for 47 days over two seasons for Whistler Kids Adventure Camp, a program aimed at kids five to 14 years old.

In January this year he left due to injury. His visa also ran out at the end of January.

A criminal record check does not offer 100 per cent protection. The accused in this case did not have a criminal record in Australia, therefore, Whistler-Blackcomb would not have known he was a risk at the time he was hired.

Reference checks can help the weeding out process but job seekers can lie on their applications or leave work places off their resumes.

Whistler-Blackcomb has a number of policies in place to help protect children.

"We have guidelines around appropriate behaviour around the kids," said Teresa Bouchard general manager of the Whistler Kids program.

For example instructors are allowed to take kids to the washroom alone. But children are encouraged to manage the whole process by themselves. If they need a hand with their outer garments or inner ones doors must be left open to the area to engender as much scrutiny of the instructor’s actions as possible.

And, said Bouchard, male instructors who feel concerned about this scenario can ask a female to take kids to the washrooms.

And instructors can pair up to take their charges for bathroom breaks.

"I just let the instructors know that they have to be aware that their actions can be misconstrued so they have to make sure that everything they do is above board and up-front," said Bouchard.

But it is a fine line between protecting the kids and the instructors and creating an atmosphere of trust which is essential to good learning, she said.

"When a child is upset your automatic reaction is to give the child a hug and to console them in some way and so this is also about how do you do that without it being inappropriate.

"What we don’t want to do is inhibit that natural relationship that kids have with their instructors. They need to be able to trust the instructors. We don’t want to create this environment of fear for the kids and yet we still need to protect them.

"So there is a fine line between making sure that the kids feel comfortable that they also feel safe and that the parents feel safe and the kids are safe."

There is also a role for parents, said Bouchard, in keeping kids safe. Kids need to know their personal boundaries and they need to know how to protect themselves.

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