December 8, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Put yourself in Alison Kakewash's shoes.
You've been raised to believe your uncle, Wes McKay, is "wicked." Your mom tells you to keep your distance, that he raped someone once. You've seen him hurt your cousin. As you testified at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry Thursday morning, he was the bogeyman of your childhood.
When you're 19 and a mother yourself, your uncle and Samantha Kematch move on to your reserve. They've got their infant daughter, McKay's two sons and Phoenix Sinclair, Kematch's five-year-old daughter.
Despite your mother's warning, despite your own sense your uncle is a bad man, you drop by the house where the family is staying. They have a baby and you have a baby and you thought it would be nice to get the kids together for a play date.
That first play date, Phoenix accidentally knocks over one of the babies. Your uncle grabs her roughly and puts her in a dark room that holds only a fridge. He calls the five-year-old a "f ing bitch."
Before the outburst, you'd noticed that Phoenix was "small, skinny." She didn't look healthy.
So what do you do, Alison Kakewash? Do you protest? Do you try to get the little girl out? Do you call CFS or talk to your second cousin, who is a CFS social worker on the reserve? Do you call the police?
No. You walk out of that house, leaving Phoenix in a dark room. You leave her with the bogeyman.
You come back another time to the home where you know a child is being abused. This time, Phoenix is in the dark room with a blanket over her head. She has bruises or scratches or dirt on her face. It's so dim you really can't tell. Your uncle tells you to get out and shut the door. And you do, Alison Kakewash.
You remember "she looked sad." You cried on the stand at the memory.
Your uncle tells you she's in the room because "she was a bad little girl." You stay there a couple of hours, the child silently standing in the dark room. You don't tell anyone about that visit either, or about the room. You do tell your mom Uncle Wes is mean to Phoenix, which is no surprise, since mom told you to stay away from him in the first place. You think about calling CFS but don't because you're afraid of your uncle.
You leave Phoenix alone in that room again. If she was hoping you'd save her, she's sorely wrong.
The third time you go back to visit the uncle who terrifies you, you have a premonition before you enter the house. "I felt this bad feeling, like my uncle had killed somebody, killed Samantha."
You come in through the back door, spotting two or three drops of blood on the landing. Your uncle, who is usually in bed or on the couch, is going up and down the basement stairs. Kematch is sitting at the computer, weeping.
You ask what's going on, where Phoenix is. Your uncle claims they've sent her back to live at her father's because she was "too bad."
"She wasn't bad when I seen her those two times. She looked sweet, innocent girl."
Despite your sense something terrible happened, despite Kematch's tears and the absence of Phoenix, you do nothing. Again. You're scared. But you go back there again, don't you Alison? You're hanging out with your uncle, watching a TV show about a little boy who disappears.
Uncle Wes has some advice for the kidnapper. He says to "to cover the grave with pepper because it covers the smell."
You don't tell anyone. You leave that house and claim you're shocked when you hear Phoenix is dead.
"I never thought my uncle would do something like that," you tell the inquiry into Phoenix's life and torturous death.
Really, Alison Kakewash? You had every clue he was doing something like that. Your spidey sense was tingling, remember? You wouldn't make a phone call to save the girl because you were afraid of your wicked uncle.
Imagine how Phoenix felt, living with the bogeyman.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2013 A8