Catherine Mitchell

  • Sixties Scoop demands an inquiry

    In one of the 11 galleries at our new, sterling display of man's inhumanity to man that has opened at what historically served as a First Nations gathering ground, there is mention of the development of children's rights as a "Turning Point" in the evolution of the global human rights zeitgeist. I'm keen to see what the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will have on display about this.
  • Vancouver cycles, Winnipeg recycles

    The acrimony in Vancouver over the development of a new cycling route shows just how much people hate change. Not in Vancouver, in Winnipeg. Vancouverites have just weathered a blistering debate about the value of encouraging commuters to get out of their cars and onto bicycles. The redevelopment of Point Grey Road, from Jericho Park to Hadden Park at the Burrard St. Bridge, will construct separated bike lanes, but also dump cars entirely off a one-kilometre stretch of the route.
  • We elect trustees of secrets

    The Winnipeg School Division has some odd practices for a public body that insists it is interested in public engagement, practices that confound transparency. Such as:
  • Can Canadians reconcile the truth?

    Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission says it is going to be much more than a dollar short and a day late. After years of foot-dragging, the federal government has just now been forced to find and turn over millions of documents relating to the shameful period of Canada's history when First Nations children as young as six were taken from their homes and put into the hands of strangers, in a stranger land. The policy is widely seen now as barbaric, and its imprint is emblazoned on whole generations. It's there, in living relief, on Main or Portage, in homeless shelters, on reserves, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In Canada's jails.
  • Hold social workers to account

    Rohan Stephenson is a little worked over by life, but he's articulate and focussed. Right now, he wants child welfare agencies and those tasked with protecting children to be accountable for their work. On Thursday, Stephenson took the system to task for its handling of Phoenix Sinclair, a little girl murdered by her mother after spending time in agency care.
  • CFS workers cannot wear two hats

    Steven Sinclair's short time before the inquiry reviewing the death of his little girl gave ample proof of how inept our system can be at caring for families and protecting vulnerable tots. It was clear early in his testimony Wednesday that Sinclair, the father of Phoenix, who was killed by her mother in 2005, had little use for child and family services agencies, their workers or their advice. This was a young man, at the time, who grew up as a ward of the system, bounced around foster homes and, while he had some good to say about his child welfare worker, Kathy Peterson Epps, recalled that he didn't trust her much either.
  • Child welfare system is antiquated

    Testimony at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry can break the hardest heart. Samantha Kematch and Steve Sinclair, her parents, were hobbled -- financially, emotionally and psychologically -- and incapable of caring for her. The sense of rising panic I felt for Phoenix, listening as the days of her short life were plotted out in sparse detail contained in child welfare files, was surpassed only by the dreaded realization that her home was considered low risk for much of the time it was in the hands of the system.
  • Secret reports on CFS errors must end

    The Phoenix Sinclair commission has just entered its third week of public hearings into the tragic life and grisly death of the young girl, whom the child welfare system knew was at risk from birth, and one conclusion is apparent. It makes no sense to conduct repeat investigations in the wake of the deaths of these children -- she is not the only child to die in the shadow of the system -- if the findings are not shared with those whose actions were faulty. There were three reviews conducted in 2006, when Phoenix's death was discovered nine months after her mother and her mother's boyfriend hid her body at a dump near their Fisher River home. A former program manager of Winnipeg CFS, the agency charged with keeping her safe, completed an internal review. The chief medical examiner's office did its own file review of the agency's role in Phoenix's life and an investigation under the CFS Act, called a Sec. 4 review, was also conducted.
  • The issue of 'evidence' bedevils child welfare

    There are some evident themes developing at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry as lawyers spar with witnesses about who did (or, mostly, didn't do) what, when and why. Workloads were high, then as now, and triggered judgment calls and compromises for social workers. But there is another narrative emerging: Child welfare workers believe most of us are toiling under the delusion that they can bust in and snatch kids from parents and hold them for as long as they think necessary.
  • A child welfare culture of compromise

    There were two defining moments Thursday in the testimony of CFS workers at the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair. The women were challenged to explain why, in 2003, even as others were raising alarm that Phoenix was in the precarious care of her father, they downplayed the risk. Roberta Dick took calls on potential protection issues for Winnipeg CFS. On Feb. 26, 2003, the child protection centre at the HSC called. A doctor suspected Phoenix was suffering from medical and physical neglect.
  • Risks to children in care often seen as 'relative'

    There is an obvious connection between Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard's ordering of a review of Sagkeeng Child and Family Services yesterday and the inquiry into how Phoenix Sinclair's file was handled by child welfare before she was murdered at age five in 2005. The first, most obvious tie is that child welfare workers were -- and are -- buckling under the weight of caseloads too large to manage safely. Thirty, 40 or more cases on the desk of each worker -- more than twice professional standards for case management. That was the case when Phoenix was born; that's the case now.
  • Written on her face

    Kathy Peterson Epps is a slight woman, so slight as to look as though a limb would snap if you were to bump into her. Today, at the inquiry into the murder of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Epps’ frailty got the best of her and she had to leave the witness stand mid-morning. Epps is/was a social worker with Winnipeg CFS, which had care and control of Phoenix’s file since her birth on April 23, 2000. Epps is on medical leave from her job; she is clearly very ill. But she has stood in at the inquiry for a second day now with heroic form, clearly answering questions put to her with as best a recall possible for events that happened 12 years and more ago.
  • Phoenix file rated 'low risk'

    The miasma that surrounded Winnipeg Child and Family Services in 2001 when yet another social worker was assigned to watch out for Phoenix Sinclair was exceeded, it seemed, only by the unimaginable chaos enveloping the families it was serving. In August 2001, Kathy Peterson Epps was handed the Sinclair family file. She had the express message to close it.
  • Terminal illnesses

    Winnipeg's new Richardson International Airport has tried its wings, so to speak, its first departures taking flight Sunday from the striking Cesar Pelli-designed terminal, a monument to aviation. It was a long time in coming, with planning starting in the late 1990s, construction starts delayed repeatedly and a longer building schedule than anticipated.
  • Liberal Leader Gerrard gets one job done

    In so many ways, Jon Gerrard deserved to go back to the legislature to represent River Heights. And so he will. Well done, Mr. Gerrard. A level-headed gentleman who puts thoughtful policy ahead of partisan gamesmanship, he leads a rump of a party that nonetheless presented most of this campaign's few good ideas.
  • 'Pitcher' slides a fast one

    It should have been a piece of cake. Greg Selinger, finance minister for a decade and premier for the last two years, sat down for a chat with the Free Press editorial board about NDP promises and provincial finances in his first campaign as leader of the party. He was fine as long as it related to the recall of facts, figures and programs.
  • Gerrard plans to make it entertaining

    It's not every day you get a politician ready with numbers to counter a dismal poll, but there was the Liberal leader looking as fiery as Jon Gerrard gets, girding for a fight. "I don't believe that five per cent," Gerrard retorted Tuesday when asked about the CJOB/Viewpoints telephone survey of 579 Manitobans on their voting intentions. The poll noted an impressive undecided figure, about 19 per cent of respondents. But five per cent for a party looks deadly, no?
  • Buying votes the only game in town

    One week left in the Groupon campaign. And if you don't like the latest deal, wait a day, something will pop up. The ideological struggle is so yesterday. In the last 12 years, Manitoba elections have undergone a complete conversion to a marketplace where the ideas hold no currency against the cut-rate bait. Pave those back lanes; expand the neighbourhood rec centre; build an ambulance bay; guarantee cheap utility bills. All of it, deficit-financed, by the way.
  • This watchdog barked, growled

    Clearly the governors of Quebec City's Garrison Club had no clue as to the incredible investment they were turning down. In 1981, they told the newest partner of Ernst and Young that if she persisted in her desire to mingle with the select crowd at the city's 102-year-old private club, she'd have to ask her husband to sign a membership card for the men-only bastion of British tradition. Sheila Fraser turned their "offer" down.
  • Fight for liberation regressing

    The Facebook page jailkerrycampbell isn't getting much traffic yet, but the San Francisco child protective services caught up with the real Kerry Campbell Wednesday and nabbed her kid. Now the overbearing beautician mama is pleading remorse and promising to check in to some self-esteem therapy. Daughter Britney, 8, should start right away, too. Britney is a puffy-cheeked pageant contestant who got regular Botox shots -- four times in the last year, starting with her eighth birthday "present" -- from her mother, to smooth out the facial wrinkles. Most of us would have recognized these as dimples.
  • Left punch -- to Michael Ignatieff's jaw

    I gave the Conservatives 133 seats in the office pool Monday night. I lost. I was so far short of the NDP's remarkable tally that I should have saved my measly buck.
  • The beauty and the beast of democracy

    Out of left field, Canadians suddenly have good reason to get out the popcorn and settle in to watch the polls close on Monday. A week, even two, into this election campaign, no one was predicting the rise in the NDP support. Now, even the Tories are sweating it as opinion polls start to show their numbers eroding against Jack Layton's surprise surge.
  • History around every corner

    When the Shanghai restaurant building got a death notice from city council, I wanted to know more about how this town protects its heritage. I called people who know this stuff and repeatedly was pointed in the same direction. Randy Rostecki was a history student in the early 1970s when he got involved with a small, vocal group of activists appalled at the way everything old was heading for the rubble heap as a booming Winnipeg saw Portage and Main reincarnated in towering steel and glass.
  • City's Modernist gems hiding in plain sight

    THE short strip of Osborne from Broadway to Portage Avenue is not something most Winnipeggers would see as historically invigorating. We have lots of preserved heritage buildings; we know what history looks like.  
  • City's water main policy good -- for city

    Gerald McCasky says he got the worst of the flooding on Notre Dame Avenue Sunday when a water main broke outside his neighbour's yard. His house is low, so the water pooled around it and into the backyard. Ice everywhere. But he has no basement. No damage, that he knows of.

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