Catherine Mitchell

  • Sixties Scoop apology just a start

    At moments, in the crowd that came to hear Premier Greg Selinger's apology Thursday to the aboriginal children taken during the Sixties Scoop, you could feel a bit of their pain. The hurt that sets in and trickles down the generations.
  • Residential school in city's backyard

    Theodore "Ted" Fontaine stands a little bent. It's his hip. He leans into the well of a big window of his long-ago classroom at the Assiniboia Indian Residential School. Winnipeggers may not have heard of it. They cannot see it, even though the building stands limestone-sturdy; it's hidden by newer buildings where Academy Road meets Route 90. Through spattering rain, he looks onto the backyards of tidy little houses on Wellington Crescent South. The people who lived there have all likely moved on, says Fontaine, 73.
  • Don't destroy Arlington Bridge

    It was a good start to another season, even with the double wipeout, on the same day. Getting on the bike March 9 was a personal victory -- I'm not one of the ninja cyclists grinding the gears through the dead of winter. (Thick skin; stout heart. Not me.) Construction season has also started early on Route 90 this year. They're working on sewer drains north of Silver Avenue, and there's more work to come this summer. I'm already hating the drive, hating the person behind my wheel. Cycling's good for the heart.
  • Human trafficking feeds the sex trade

    If ever you want to engage in a little myth-busting on the so-called sex trade, pop into a forum on human trafficking. That's where I was last Thursday. This was not a collection of international law and government poobahs, but a room filled with ordinary Manitobans, mostly aboriginal women, and a few Canadians who came loaded with the burden of experience gained right in our backyard.
  • Common cause for new cash

    Budget day at city hall saw the opening salvo fired in Mayor Brian Bowman's battle for a fairer funding deal from the provincial government. The mayor's big gun is the argument Winnipeg is facing a "structural deficit" that can only be met by shifting the city off an unsustainable reliance on property taxes and onto revenue from growth taxes. Yes, this is former mayor Glen Murray's new deal, redux. That groundbreaking proposal, taxpayers will recall, was killed upon birth by former NDP premier Gary Doer, who told Murray flat out he wasn't elected to raise taxes. When Murray cut short his mayoralty to jump (unsuccessfully) into federal politics, the "New Deal for Winnipeg" became so much fish wrap.
  • The benefit, and peril, in a national inquiry

    I've got a lot of time for Murray Sinclair. The respected Manitoba jurist has huge capital in my books because of his record for digging out the roots of injustices when ordinary people in this province have been betrayed by public institutions or state agents. Manitobans have seen Judge Sinclair's work, with co-commissioner Alvin Hamilton in the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, which looked at the systemic racism and discrimination weighing and preying upon aboriginal people in Manitoba. And in 1995, Sinclair examined the deaths of 10 babies and two toddlers at Health Sciences Centre, producing a piercing analysis of the dangerous medical environment that prevailed there at the time.
  • Christmas perfection lives in every child's mind

    I went in search of the perfect Christmas Sunday. And I dragged my husband along. He's such a lover. The most perfect Christmases live in our heads, embedded as sights and smells and sounds artfully fixed as only a child's mind can. You know: the blinding white landscape. Crisp sunny days where breath puffs like clouds before our noses. Boots crunching along.
  • Sex ed in the Internet age

    I got my first lesson on the ubiquity of porn years ago when researching oral culture. Suddenly, multiple layers of explicit, animated pop-ups commandeered my desktop. I got schooled.
  • Steeped in porn at a tender age

    THERE’S no cleaning up the language when you’re talking porn with Gabriel Deem, a man who says from the age of 11 he regularly consumed obscene megabytes-worth of pornography. It was a compulsion that eventually robbed him of any interest in real, tactile sex with another human being. His story serves as a warning for parents grappling with the new normal brought about by the ubiquity of the Internet. It’s not an easy story to hear, but it’s an important one regardless.
  • Steeped in porn at a tender age

    There's no cleaning up the language when you're talking porn with Gabriel Deem, a man who says from the age of 11 he regularly consumed obscene megabytes-worth of pornography. It was a compulsion that eventually robbed him of any interest in real, tactile sex with another human being.
  • Cycling's faster than Route 90

    On Wednesday, I rode my bike to work, huffing it from River Heights to the Inkster Industrial Park. I did it in 35 minutes (plus or minus five minutes; not a single timepiece in my house is faithful to Greenwich). Not too shabby. But here's the thing: It's taking me as long to drive Route 90 North these days, a trip so frustratingly tedious I've started driving through town, through rush-hour traffic to relieve the blood pressure. I gave up on Route 90 South months ago.
  • 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.


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