Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Community members in shock over death of child

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PEGUIS — The flags are at half mast and the death of a 21-month-old child being treated as a homicide by police is being described as a tragedy today in Peguis First Nation.

Members of the Interlake community are in the middle of the annual treaty days powwow, which makes the RCMP confirmation the death was a homicide all that much more distressing.

"Any death that happens in our community comes as a shock," Chief Glenn Hudson said during a break at the powwow.

The decision to release a statement the death is indeed a homicide confirmed rumours that had been swirling around the First Nation since last week when the little girl died, the chief said.

"Now we’ve been made aware of that. That is a fact. We know the family very well. It is very sensitive for the family," he said.

There have been no reports of an arrest in the case.

Community members identified the little girl’s family home.

It is a small, dilapidated trailer, with a homemade play structure behind it. Scattered in front of the structure are kids’ toys and a child’s bicycle with training wheels. Damaged windows on the trailer were covered with red tape.

Behind the yard there was a large group of cars parked on a neighbouring property.

Nobody appeared to be at the trailer, but one pickup truck wheeled out from the group of parked cars when media arrived, and the driver aggressively ordered media to leave the family alone.

Rumours here indicate the toddler had been recently released from the custody of child welfare authorities and returned to her birth parents.

Chief Hudson said he could not confirm the rumours and emphasized this case was "not at all" like that of Phoenix Sinclair.

"We don’t know if it involved (CFS) or if the child had been returned back to the family," the chief said.

Peguis RCMP confirmed today they are investigating the death of a little girl last week as a homicide.

On July 17, a 21-month-old girl in medical distress was taken to the Percy E. Moore Hospital in Hodgson, Man. She eventually succumbed to her injuries later that day.

The infant’s name will not be released and no further details were made available by police. The investigation is ongoing.

On Tuesday, Manitoba’s chief medical examiner, Thambirajah Balachandra, told the Free Press a preliminary autopsy report was not yet complete.

All child deaths, especially those of children with open child welfare files, are forwarded by the medical examiner to the Children’s Advocate for possible investigation.

Though the death occurred nearly a week ago, the Manitoba government could not yet confirm Wednesday whether the child was in care or had any involvement with social workers.

— with files from staff

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 11:02 AM CDT: corrects typo

12:32 PM: Updates with info from Thambirajah Balachandra

4:17 PM: adds reaction from community, photo

8:33 PM: Adds video.

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