Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sagkeeng CFS faces scrutiny over deaths

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The operations of Sagkeeng Child and Family Services agency are being reviewed as part of an ongoing probe into the death of two-year-old Gage Guimond.

Sagkeeng CFS was the agency responsible for Gage's care when he was murdered in July 2007. It was also the agency responsible for Fonessa Bruyere, the 17-year-old girl who was murdered in August 2007. This week, the Free Press discovered Fonessa was also a child and family services kid, who had been in and out of foster care during her short life.

Elsie Flette, CEO of the Southern First Nations Child and Family Services, said it isn't clear if there are any similarities in the two cases. But she said Sagkeeng CFS is being looked at amid a review of Gage's case being done by the Southern Authority.

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

"We called the Section Four because we felt there were things to look at,'' said Flette. "The Section 4 on Gage includes a wider review than just the case. We also said we were looking at operational issues in the agency. That is underway.''

The review is expected to be completed in June.

As of August 2007, Sagkeeng CFS had 314 active case files, including 235 children in care.

Sagkeeng CFS decided to send Fonessa back to live with her family in May 2007, after she spent a week in mandatory detox following a drug overdose.

That decision was made despite information doing so would likely expose Fonessa to drugs and the sex trade.

The decision on Fonessa's care was made at the same time Sagkeeng CFS workers were figuring out what to do with Gage and his older sister.

The two children had been abandoned with relatives by their own mother, who also had addiction's issues.

In August 2006, the children went to live in foster care while Sagkeeng CFS tried to find a family member they could live with. The kids' paternal grandmother was chosen, even though she had missed repeated scheduled visits with the kids, had left them with strangers on one of those visits, had a history of alcohol abuse and told the agency she did not want to take care of them because she didn't think she could.

They moved in with her in March 2007. Weeks later, a social worker visiting the kids found them in the aftermath of a drinking party.

So the agency had to find a new home. It didn't send the kids back to the foster home where they had been thriving. This time it chose a great aunt with a criminal record. Six weeks later he was dead of a massive brain injury. Shirley Guimond is charged with manslaughter in connection with Gage's death.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2008

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