Reports critical of the way Phoenix Sinclair’s case was handled by Winnipeg Child and Family Services were not to be shared with the staff involved, said the woman in charge at the time. At the inquiry into the little girl’s death, Darlene MacDonald testified today that she was ordered not to.
"I was asked to keep the reports confidential and not share them with anyone," said MacDonald, who was the CEO of CFS then and is now the Children’s Advocate.
"I think there were people above me who made that decision."
The three reports were written after Phoenix’s 2005 death came to light in 2006. The five-year-old’s body was discovered buried at Fisher River First Nation and in 2008 her mother Samantha Kematch and stepfather Karl "Wes" McKay were convicted of her murder.
In 2011, the province ordered an inquiry to determine how Phoenix slipped through Manitoba’s child-welfare safety net. Phoenix had been involved with Winnipeg CFS from the time she was born until her family left Winnipeg for the reserve in 2005, the year she was murdered.
Soon after her death was discovered in 2006, investigations began. The chief medical examiner, an independent third party and an internal review were conducted.
The social workers and supervisors criticized in those reports were never informed of the findings concerning their role in the case. They didn’t find out until years later, when the commission of inquiry was ordered and they were contacted by commission counsel.
Several of the workers who have testified said they wished they’d seen the reports’ findings about their involvement in the case – they might have learned something from it.
MacDonald said she assumed that the reports were to be kept secret because an inquiry would be called.