Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

McKay's niece tried to blow whistle on abuse; CFS wouldn't take anonymous tip

  • Print

Karl McKay's niece said she called Winnipeg CFS to report that his stepdaughter Phoenix Sinclair was being locked in a bedroom and abused but the agency wouldn't accept an anonymous call from a minor, the woman testified today.

Lisa Marie Bruce told the inquiry into the death of the little girl that she was 17 at the time and lived in the same apartment block as McKay, Phoenix and Phoenix’s mother, Samantha Kematch.

Bruce babysat Phoenix several times and said she saw changes in the little girl and how she was treated after Kematch and McKay had a baby together in late 2004.

"She became more quieter, more distant," Bruce told the inquiry ordered by the province to find out how the little girl fell through Manitoba's child-welfare safety net. Phoenix's 2005 death at the hands of McKay and Kematch wasn’t discovered until March 2006.

Bruce said Phoenix didn't cry or show much emotion after Kematch and McKay's baby was born. The once talkative and outgoing child didn't seem happy or well, said Bruce.

"She started to look ill -- as if she was low on iron," said Bruce "She was getting skinnier."

Her mom and stepdad didn't want four-year-old Phoenix around their baby -- or anyone, Bruce said, recalling Kematch getting rough with four-year-old Phoenix.

"Phoenix was going around the baby. She grabbed Phoenix and pushed her towards the ground and called her a little slut."

She saw McKay lashing out at Phoenix, too.

"He became more stern, more violent toward her," she said. She saw Phoenix with a black eye and bruises on her face on two occasions but was told they were the result of a fall. Bruce, who'd seen McKay be mean to Phoenix, said she believed the bruises were the result of abuse.

"When we were sitting down for dinner in his apartment, (Phoenix) was sitting there, eating. Out of nowhere, he grabbed her hat off her head and threw it on the ground. He'd grabbed her hair at same time."

In January 2005, Bruce noticed a lock with a chain on the outside of the bedroom door in their one-bedroom apartment. There was no sign of Phoenix, who may have been shut away in the bedroom, she said.

One time, when she went to pick Phoenix up and take her to Brownies at the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, there was no sign of Phoenix outside the locked bedroom. Kematch and McKay said Phoenix couldn't go with her, Bruce said.

"They said she was being bad."

She said she was worried about Phoenix and called Winnipeg CFS two weeks later, in May 2005. By then, the little girl and her family had moved to Fisher River First Nation.

Winnipeg CFS had already closed the file on Phoenix in March 2005 after social workers responded to an earlier report by a friend of Kematch that Phoenix was being locked in a bedroom. They didn't get inside the suite or see Phoenix but they talked to Kematch in the hallway as she held her and McKay's baby. They told her a locked bedroom door isn't safe and left satisfied there wasn't a child in need of protection. Winnipeg CFS closed the file on Phoenix.

Bruce said she called CFS in May 2005 but was stopped short by whomever at CFS took her call.

"I didn't want to release my information," she said. "When I told them how old I was they said I would need a parent or guardian to do the report to CFS." Bruce said OK and hung up, not knowing what else to do, she said. She didn't tell anyone at the time about the call she made on a landline to CFS.

She didn't get a chance to provide the full names of McKay, Kematch or Phoenix, who each had a lengthy CFS file.

Her call to CFS was news to the inquiry. Commission counsel called for a recess to tell Bruce that as a source of referral, she was entitled to legal representation and to keep her name out of the public eye. Bruce, now an adult, said she wanted to continue without a lawyer. Her testimony continues this afternoon.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Glenn January won't blame offensive line for first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • May 22, 2012 - 120522  - Westminster United Church photographed Tuesday May 22, 2012 .  John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you miss Grandma Elm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google