Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Substances rampant at safe house: inquiry

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The inquest into a child's death at a native women's safe house heard drug and alcohol use was rampant at the facility at the time the child was killed.

Inquest counsel Bruce Sychuk said the public would be shocked to learn the Native Women's Transition Centre is nothing more than a rooming house with "inmates running the asylum."

Sychuk made his comments Thursday during final submissions to the inquest into the November 2009 death of Jaylene Redhead, who was 21 months old when her mother Nicole suffocated the child at the NWTC.

Nicole Redhead pleaded guilty to manslaughter after admitting to suffocating Jaylene while living at the shelter under the supervision of the Awasis aboriginal child and family services agency.

Sychuk said NWTC staff were "good-intentioned individuals who lacked direction," adding NWTC's mandate was to provide a safe haven for women but wasn't necessarily a safe place for children. Sychuk's assessment was shared by Judge Allen, who said: "I don't think the public would accept if there is rampant drug use going on."

Awasis case workers were caring, hard-working individuals, Sychuk said, whose efforts were undermined by their failure to make notes and fill out vital documents properly.

Sychuk said Awasis made no effort to present information to an investigator from the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), who criticized the agency's handling of the child.

Both Sychuk and Awasis' counsel found fault with the investigator who wrote the report. Sychuk said Justine Grain lacked the child-welfare experience necessary to conduct such an investigation. Awasis lawyer Jeff Harris was pointed in his criticism of Grain, saying she had a bias against Awasis and refused to interview several case workers who had dealt with Nicole and Jaylene Redhead.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 B3

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