Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Superiors shelved reports: ex-CEO

Wrote to province to get them released

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REPORTS critical of the way Winnipeg Child and Family Services handled Phoenix Sinclair's case were not to be shared with the staff involved, said the woman in charge at the time.

At the inquiry Tuesday into the girl's death, Darlene MacDonald testified she was ordered not to show the reports to her colleagues.

"I was asked to keep the reports confidential and not share them with anyone," said MacDonald, who was the CEO of CFS then and now heads Manitoba's Children's Advocate office. She said she assumed the reports were to be kept secret because an inquiry would be called.

"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 into 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 for the reserve in 2005, the year she was murdered.

Soon after her death was discovered in 2006, investigations began. The chief medical examiner and an independent third party probed it and an internal review was 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 its counsel contacted them.

"Was that a decision you agreed with?" commission counsel Derek Olson asked MacDonald.

She said she wrote to her supervisor in the provincial government to ask if she could let program managers see the reports but not so they would punish the workers involved.

"It definitely wasn't to look at individual performance," said MacDonald. She wanted the managers to see if they could follow up on the recommendations in the reports. "It was to look at whether standards were met to prevent this from happening again."

The program managers didn't share the information with the workers and supervisors they were in charge of, the inquiry has heard.

Several CFS employees have testified they wished they'd seen the reports' findings about their involvement in the case and they might have learned something from them.

"If there was report about me out there, I'd want to know what it said," MacDonald said.

"They were fairly critical reports," said Olson. They took workers and supervisors to task for not seeing Phoenix before closing the file on her several times. The reports criticized them for not checking out McKay's violent history with CFS after knowing he'd moved in with Kematch and Phoenix.

"Was anyone made accountable for any of the work done or not done?" Olson asked MacDonald. "... Did anyone receive any remedial training?"

"Not that I'm aware of," said MacDonald.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2013 A4


Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:24 AM CST: replaces photo

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