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What the lead counsel says:

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WINNIPEG lawyer Sherri Walsh and her team examined more than 120 witnesses.

But Walsh said Friday it's clear from the massive report examining the death of Phoenix Sinclair and the province's child-protection system that child welfare is the concern of all Manitobans.

Commissioner Ted Hughes' report goes to lengths to demonstrate it's the community at large -- not just government and social workers -- who must help ensure kids are kept safe, she said.

"It's comprehensive in terms of showing that protecting children is a shared responsibility," she said. "It's something that starts before the child-welfare system gets involved and ideally prevents involvement," said Walsh, the first woman in the province to take on such a lead role in an inquiry.

That shared obligation also includes the private sector and the public at large, she said.

Hughes' recommendations for change include several that, if implemented, would be far-reaching in their scope and impact on our society.

Through them, "community capacity" would be built up to support at-risk children and possibly keep them from ever coming into contact with Child and Family Services, Walsh suggested.

"Those are critical," she said. From a pragmatic point of view, it's also a way to spend money now to save it down the road.

"Nothing is quite as expensive as maintaining a child in care," she said. "All of the evidence shows that early intervention is really the cost-effective way to go."

Walsh said she was pleased and honoured to be appointed lead counsel to the lengthy inquiry.

She and her team waded through many thousands of pages of documents, prepared for and examined more than 120 witnesses and co-ordinated the efforts of outside investigators as just a few of their duties.

"I think as a woman, I put a different face and tone to this inquiry," said Walsh. "I tried to make it more a matter of collaboration rather than an adversarial process as legal processes so often are."

"I felt a huge empathy to all the witnesses and a responsibility to Phoenix throughout."

-- James Turner

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