Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gage's guardian called for help -- got voice mail

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Before Gage Guimond was killed, the woman now charged in his death allegedly made two desperate phone calls to a CFS social worker.

According to a highly placed child welfare source, Shirley Guimond's call was a plea for help which should have triggered a CFS response in the interests of the two-year-old boy and his sister.

Guimond couldn't reach the social worker, says the source, and left voice mail messages.

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Her phone calls were never returned.

"The two phone calls made to the social worker by Shirley Guimond was (sic) common knowledge at the Manitoba Foster Family Network," the source claims.

The Guimond siblings' foster family contacted the MFFN to appeal a CFS decision to remove the children from their home.

They lost their appeal.

Gage and his sister were taken from the foster home and "reunited" with blood relatives.

Two-year-old Gage was killed in July 2007 after having been sent to live, along with his sister, first to his grandmother and then to great-aunt Shirley Guimond, even though social workers were aware the grandmother had addictions issues and Guimond had a criminal record.

She is now charged with manslaughter in the toddler's death. Gage's sister was returned to the original Selkirk foster family after her brother was killed.

She was covered in bruises when she was removed from Shirley Guimond's house.

Last month, Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh said the safety of children will take precedence over all other considerations -- including cultural and family ties -- for kids in care in Manitoba's child welfare system, through legislation expected this spring.

The government has not called an inquest into Gage's death and will not acknowledge whether any CFS staff have been fired or disciplined in the case.

A source close to the system, however, said there was at least one high-ranking employee placed on paid leave following Gage's death, but that he has since returned to work.

A government spokesperson said that neither Mackintosh nor Elsie Flette, CEO of the Southern First Nations Child and Family Services Authority would comment on the newest allegations.

The operations of Sagkeeng Child and Family Services agency are being reviewed as part of an ongoing probe into the death of the two-year-old. Sagkeeng CFS was the agency responsible for Gage's care when he was murdered.

Flette said recently that Sagkeeng CFS is being looked at amid a review of Gage's case conducted by the Southern Authority.

The review was officially called for under Section 4 of the Child and Family Services Act.

On Tuesday, the Family Services spokesperson conceded the allegation concerning Shirley Guimond's unreturned phone calls, which were news to the department, would now be included in the Section 4 review.

All of this alleging and denying and dodging has the handy effect of obfuscating the truth.

Plain and simple: Gage Guimond was killed while under the nominal care of CFS, handed over to a distant relative by a novice social worker and left to die.

Shirley Guimond will have her day in court to determine whether or not she killed the bruise-covered toddler.

But if she reached out to a CFS worker before Gage died, she shouldn't be the only one on trial.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Lindor Reynolds blogs at www.winnipegfreepress.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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