Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Paper trail runs dry

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Dolores Chief-Abigosis perfectly illustrates why social workers must take detailed and accurate notes of their case work.

She took over the Phoenix Sinclair file on Nov. 14, 2000. From that date until Feb. 5, 2001, there is no recorded contact between Chief-Abigosis and the family.

In testimony at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry this week, the former social worker insisted she might have had more contact but not written it down. Her supervisors have testified it was standard social-work practice to note all contact.

Chief-Abigosis's shoddy note-taking was exacerbated by her lack of memory. She answered "I can't recall" 14 times in a 25-minute exchange with a lawyer.

Under questioning from commission counsel Derek Olson, Chief-Abigosis drew a blank on even minor matters.

Is there a reason why supervisor Lorna Hanson would have signed Samantha Kematch's closing file summary in your place, Olson asked.

"I can't recall."

"It's dated Aug. 16," he prompted. "Were you still at the agency?"

"I can't recall the exact date I left the agency," she replied.

(For the record, Chief-Abigosis left the agency in July 2001.)

In another exchange, Olson questioned Chief-Abigosis about her involvement with the family after Echo, Phoenix's younger sister, died.

If you attended the funeral, Olson asked, when after that did you stop actively working on files?

"I can't recall."

After the funeral, did you offer services to Sinclair, Olson asked.

"I can't recall."

"Were you still involved with the family after funeral?" he asked.

She was on paper duty. She said she remembered attending Echo's funeral. Does that help you remember when you resigned, Olson asked.

I can't recall exactly, she said.

-- Lindor Reynolds

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 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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