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Lawyer cites public's need to know in publication ban fight

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A publication ban on the identities of social workers involved in the care of Phoenix Sinclair will hinder accuracy and stop Manitobans from getting information they should know, argued a lawyer representing media outlets Thursday.

Jonathan Kroft, who represents a number of media outlets including the Free Press, was at a hearing concerning a proposed publication ban which would block the names and faces of social workers involved in the five-year-old’s care from public view.

The inquiry into the girl’s care before her 2005 murder by her mother and stepfather has yet to begin.

Arguments are still ongoing about an application by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) which would stop the press from identifying those involved – a move Kroft protested to retired judge Ted Hughes, who is heading the inquiry.

"We’re not talking about trivial rights, trivial matters," said Kroft.

"We’re talking about rights that go to the very heart of our democratic tradition, a tradition the children have a stake in..."

Kroft said the decision a publication ban would create a "true danger" to Canadians, and "permit an unaccountable group of anonymous civil servants to make decisions" that violate Charter rights.

"They’re asking you to make it to illegal for the media to tell the citizens of this province who they are, to reveal who was providing you with the information that you are going to be relying on to make the recommendations (for) what everybody in this room agrees is a central government service," he said.

Phoenix was killed in 2005, before her remains turned up in a dump in 2006 in Fisher River First Nation.

She’d been missing for more than nine months. She was not in CFS care at the time of her death.

Earlier Thursday, Hafeez Khan, who represents Intertribal CFS, said the agency's involvement with Sinclair was "negligible," but faulty perceptions persist. Intertribal CFS is amongst those who support MGEU’s application.

"Even when we set the record straight, in our respectful view, there is no way of completely eradicating that perception," said Khan.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 3:42 PM CDT: Adds quotes from hearing

4:13 PM: Clarifies that Sinclair was not in CFS care at the time of her death.

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