A social worker at Fisher River First Nation who apprehended two of Karl "Wes" McKay's sons who'd been left alone at the home where Phoenix Sinclair was killed a month earlier testified this morning that she didn't know anything about the little girl at the time.
Madeline Bird was the first witness to take the stand today when the inquiry resumed into how five-year-old Phoenix slipped through the cracks of Manitoba's child welfare safety net. The probe ordered by the province is also trying to find out how Phoenix's June 2005 death wasn't discovered for nine months.
Winnipeg Child and Family Services was the last child welfare agency involved with Phoenix and closed the file on her in March 2005 before she and her mother, Samantha Kematch and stepfather McKay moved to his home reserve, Fisher River. There, Phoenix was killed McKay and Kematch in June 2005 but her death wasn't discovered until March 2006 after one of McKay's sons told his mother.
Bird, an Intertribal Child and Family Services social worker said she got a call in July 2005 from McKay's probation worker about two of his children. She took a co-worker to the rented home and spoke to his two adolescent sons who said they'd been left while McKay, a trucker, and Kematch were out on the road in Ontario.
While Bird spoke to the boys, her co-worker went to the basement to look around and found the boys' "babysitter" -- a man named CJ who, it was later learned, was was wanted on a police warrant -- hiding under an air mattress.
Bird said she and her co-worker made arrangements for the boys to be taken to their mother's home in Winnipeg, but there was no mention of Phoenix Sinclair. Bird said she didn't recall asking the boys whether there were any other kids or check the child and family services online information system to see whether McKay had ever had any prior contact with CFS. She couldn't recall why she didn't check the CFS registry. If she had, she could have learned that McKay was notorious for domestic abuse.
At the time, Bird said, the reserve had dial-up Internet access, and it was difficult to get online to look for child welfare information.
"A lot of times we'd get kicked out. You'd get frustrated with it."
Bird said there are still problems with the system.
"Today, it's still not working very well."