Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chiefs' opposition to name ban appalling

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The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) have thrown another wrench into the proceedings of the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, further delaying the beleaguered look into the circumstances surrounding the five-year-old's murder.

The two organizations oppose a publication ban on the names of Karl Wesley McKay's ex-wife and three children, expected to testify at the inquiry.

McKay, along with Phoenix's mother Samantha Kematch, tortured and eventually killed the child in 2005. Her body was found in 2006.

The inquiry was supposed to start hearing evidence again on Monday. That's been pushed back a week.

The Free Press is not opposing the publication ban.

McKay's ex-wife also wants to be designated a Source of Referral (SOR), further protecting her identity. A number of individuals have already testified as SORs.

In her affidavit, she says she was bullied and harassed after McKay was arrested for killing Phoenix. She was worried she'd face retribution for her testimony at the criminal trial.

"I have serious concerns that I may suffer physical harm if my identity is disclosed by virtue of my testimony at the inquiry,' she said.

"I am currently employed. No one at my place of employment is aware of my relationship to Wes McKay. I have serious concerns that if my co-workers and supervisors became aware of my relationship to Wes McKay, that I would suffer serious consequences ranging from verbal harassment to possible physical harassment to the loss of my employment."

Commission chairman Ted Hughes reluctantly granted the delay, making it clear he wants every effort made to get the inquiry back on schedule. He was unhappy with AMC and SCO lawyer Jay Funke's request for a delay because Funke and his associate are on holiday.

Intertribal CFS lawyer Hafeez Khan filed a motion to allow him to cross-examine McKay's former partner in person. That request was denied Tuesday morning. Khan spoke to her by telephone Tuesday night.

So why are the AMC and SCO eager to have the names of the four made public? AMC communications officer Sheila North Wilson said in an email that "AMC will not be providing a statement on the publication ban as this matter is currently under litigation."

There is no litigation and it's tough to know why the AMC perceives itself to have a horse in this race.

Some believe the battle to name the former partner and McKay's children is linked to the fight to name social workers and others connected with Phoenix's CFS dealings. The fears the four have expressed of potential threats to personal safety and their reputation echo those of CFS workers who didn't want to be identified. The MGEU went to court to prevent the names of social workers from being made public. They failed.

If one side was forced to testify in full glare, shouldn't the other?

But this isn't a trial and, in theory, there aren't sides. Bill Gange, the foursome's lawyer, argues the former partner should be protected under the Child and Family Services Act because she was an informant under the act. If she isn't protected, he argues, other people will be discouraged from following the act's edict to report suspected child abuse.

She is expected to testify she called Intertribal CFS worker Randy Murdock in March 2006 to report Phoenix Sinclair was being abused. If she hadn't, it's impossible to know when (or if) the child's slaying would have been uncovered.

Her evidence is expected to be incendiary. The phone call to Intertribal is on the record. What hasn't been heard is why she felt threatened by McKay after that call was made.

If this wrangling is an effort to bully the witness into not testifying, it seems doomed to fail. She and her sons found the strength to report the assaults and murder and to testify at the criminal trial. No one can blame them for not wanting to be publicly identified as the kin of Karl McKay. None carries his last name.

Trying to force them into the spotlight, knowing they are the only reason McKay and Kematch faced justice for their hideous crime, is appalling.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2013 A6

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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