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Supervisors' notes on Sinclair case missing, destroyed or not made in first place, inquiry hears

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Six years after Phoenix Sinclair's death, when a commission of inquiry was announced and people started asking questions, the notes of supervisors who handled her file could not be found.

Today, the inquiry heard that there was no policy governing supervisors' note-taking until 2004, and once there was a policy, not all supervisors followed it in the same way.

"There (were) discrepancies," said Alana Brownlee, chief executive officer of Winnipeg Child and Family Services. The inquiry has already heard that some supervisors kept notes in binders; one testified he took his notes home and destroyed them five years after leaving the agency. Another said he kept no notes at all.

Phoenix was involved with CFS from the time she was born in 2000 when she was taken into care until CFS last closed the file on her in March 2005. She died that summer but her death wasn't discovered until 2006, and the province promised an inquiry. In 2008, Phoenix's mother Samantha Kematch and stepfather Karl McKay were convicted of her murder.

In 2011, the inquiry was formally announced. Brownlee tried to track down supervisors' notes at the request of one of the supervisors who did keep notes and was trying to jog her memory about her involvement in the case.

Angie Balan and a few other supervisors involved with Phoenix testified earlier that they left their notes in binders in their offices so whomever replaced them would have them on hand.

Brownlee sent out emails to other supervisors and administrative staff hoping to track them down. With all the reorganization and moves happening within Winnipeg CFS and devolution in May 2005, the supervisors binders relating to Phoenix weren't found, she said.

Brownlee said she spoke to managers, as well.

"I did not find any supervisory notes specific to this case." Her testimony continues today.


Three of Karl "Wes" McKay’s children and a former spouse expected to testify at the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair have asked for a publication ban to protect their identities.

Commissioner Ted Hughes will hear the request for the publication ban today at 2 p.m. at the Fort Garry Hotel.

Two of McKay’s kids testified at the murder trial that in 2008 found him and Samantha Kematch guilty of murdering five-year-old Phoenix.

"Testifying at the criminal trial was very stressful to me as I was concerned about possible retribution that might result to me because of my testimony," said the affidavit of one of the kids who was 12 when they observed Phoenix with McKay and Kematch.

"Following the arrest of Wes McKay for the murder of Phoenix Sinclair, I experienced instances of harassment from people that knew that I was a child of Wes McKay," said the affidavit.

"I doubt that any of us would want to be in their shoes," said Bill Gange, the lawyer representing the four witnesses at the inquiry.

"And I doubt that any of us would want to carry the burden that they carry," he told the Free Press.

Jonathan Kroft will represent the Free Press, CBC, CTV and Global at today’s hearing.

-- with files from staff


Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:16 PM CST: updates with testimony re: supervisors' notes

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