Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Another missed opportunity to report Phoenix's abuse

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THE therapist who treated a boy who spent his summer vacation witnessing the horrific abuse of Phoenix Sinclair said he would've called child-welfare authorities about the abuse but he thought the boy's mother already had.

"I believed her," Grant Wiebe said Tuesday at the inquiry into the 2005 death of Phoenix. Her death wasn't discovered until 2006.

The longtime McDonald Youth Services therapist said he treated the 12-year-old son of Karl Wes McKay in November 2005 after the boy and his older brother spent the summer in Fisher River with McKay and his girlfriend, Samantha Kematch, who was Phoenix's mom. Wiebe got involved because the boy was exhibiting "oppositional behaviours" when he returned to school.

That summer, the boy witnessed the violent physical abuse of five-year-old Phoenix and went online to tell his mom, Wiebe said. He'd kept notes and still remembers meeting the boy and his mother in November 2005.

"One of the things I can recall is his mother and I praising him for his efforts." Secretly, at his dad's rented home in Fisher River, the boy sent an Internet message to his mom about Phoenix's abuse.

"He was being heard and his concerns were being acted upon," said Wiebe.

The therapist had no idea Phoenix had been slain and the abuse concerns were never acted upon.

"If you had some doubts about whether the mother had reported these things, then you would have called (CFS) yourself?" Jeff Gindin, the lawyer for Phoenix's biological father and longtime caregiver Kim Edwards, asked him.

"Yes," said Wiebe, who has worked at the non-profit agency since 1998 and has dealt with countless families. "I believed her."

When the boy divulged in March 2006 that Phoenix had been killed and buried, his mother contacted Wiebe again, he said. She said she'd reported information about the killing to police and to Intertribal CFS, Fisher River's child-welfare agency. She was worried her sons witnessed a homicide and may have been coerced to play a role in the girl's abuse, Wiebe said.

The boys' mother said she'd just learned from her sons that they called Phoenix "dog" and had been encouraged to shoot at her with a pellet gun. They'd seen Phoenix choked unconscious by McKay and Kematch, Wiebe's notes said. Her remains, his notes said, were put in a "Dumpster" at Fisher River. Phoenix's body was discovered buried at the dump on the First Nation.

The two boys and their mother are expected to testify next week about what they saw, when they saw it and to whom they reported it. Their identities are protected by a publication ban. They applied for the ban because they were harassed about their connection to McKay after testifying at his and Kematch's criminal trial in 2008.

The ban went unchallenged by the media but was opposed by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Intertribal Child and Family Services.

Workers from Intertribal CFS at Fisher River testified Monday they'd received no reports about a little girl being abused at McKay's home.

Madeline Bird, a relative of McKay and now supervisor at the agency, said they went to McKay's house in July 2005. Bird said a probation officer who’d called the home called CFS to report that McKay, a trucker, and his girlfriend, Kematch, were on the road in Ontario and left the boys alone. Bird said they had no report from anyone about a little girl being abused. Her agency arranged to have the boys driven back to their mother in Winnipeg.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2013 B5

History

Updated on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM CDT: corrects that it was not McKay’s probation officer who called the house and reported the boys were left alone, it was a different probation officer

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