Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No sign of danger to Phoenix: nurse

Visited home year before tot's slaying

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THE public-health nurse who visited Phoenix Sinclair's home the year before the little girl was slain by her mother and stepfather said there were no obvious signs a child was in need of protection.

Mary Wu testified Tuesday at the inquiry into the 2005 death of the five-year-old. The public-health nurses provided pre- and post-natal care to Phoenix's mother, Samantha Kematch, at their inner-city apartment in 2004.

"If I know a child's at risk of being harmed, abused or neglected... my job would be to report it," said Wu.

On Monday, a Child and Family Services social worker blamed Wu for not being more forthcoming with information about Phoenix's situation at home. Shelley Willox was the CFS crisis-response-unit worker assigned to the case on Dec. 1, 2004. A hospital social worker alerted the agency that Kematch, who had a history of involvement with child welfare, delivered another baby on Nov. 30, 2004.

Willox forwarded the file to the CFS intake unit for further investigation, but it was bounced back to Willox by her supervisor. Willox was told to contact Kematch herself and if there was no child-protection concern then close the file. When Willox couldn't get Kematch on the phone, her supervisor told her to call the public-health nurse.

Willox said Wu was no help. Wu told her she had recent training about the Public Health Information Act and wouldn't divulge any information until she received permission from Kematch. Wu testified Tuesday Willox didn't specify any child-protection concerns she had.

"We were informed that unless it was a child-protection issue, I couldn't share information without a client's consent," Wu told the inquiry.

The nurse with 25 years of experience had called CFS in the past over worries about a child but didn't have any in this case, she said. If she had, she would have reported them to Child and Family Services, she said.

Wu couldn't recall the details of her visits eight years ago but kept notes that were referred to at the inquiry. There's no record of her seeing Phoenix, who would've been four then. Wu said she was focused on the pregnant mother.

At that time, Kematch, 22, was expecting her fourth child and McKay, 42, was the father.

They abused and murdered Phoenix in 2005 but her death wasn't discovered until 2006. They were convicted in 2008 and the province called an inquiry in 2011 to find out how Phoenix slipped through the cracks of the child welfare system.

Wu's notes said it was Kematch's fourth pregnancy. It was the first time she sought care with a pregnancy. Her first-born in 1998 was a son who became a permanent ward and Phoenix was born in 2000 and taken into care for five months. Her baby sister, Echo, was born in 2001. Kematch left one-year-old Phoenix and Echo with their father, Steve Sinclair. A month later, Echo died of a respiratory infection.

Nearly three years later, Kematch decided she wanted Phoenix back and in April 2004 took her to live with McKay.

Kematch's pregnancy was referred to Wu. When the nurse couldn't get her on the phone in August 2004 to book a prenatal visit, Wu went and knocked on Kematch's door. Her notes said the apartment was "sparsely furnished but neat and tidy."

She offered Kematch services and programs but soon her calls weren't returned. The nurse didn't return to the home until Dec. 2, 2004 after the baby was born.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2013 A5

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