Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'What really matters is the children': Edwards

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The inquiry into the 2005 slaying of Phoenix Sinclair didn't uncover new details about how she fell through the cracks of the child-welfare system Thursday.

Instead, it examined the credibility and motivation of Kim Edwards, the woman who cared for Phoenix much of her young life and then went after the provincial government when she learned the five-year-old had been murdered.

"I'm tired of being up on this stand and being attacked," Edwards said during cross-examination at the very inquiry for which she lobbied to occur.

Lawyers for both the province and child-welfare agencies questioned her motivations, her recollection of certain dates and events and where she was living before Phoenix was taken and killed in 2005 by the little girl's mother and her mother's boyfriend.

Edwards and her ex-husband, Rohan Stephenson, had already split up when they applied to Child and Family Services to become an official place of safety for Phoenix in 2003. Stephenson testified earlier Edwards wasn't living in their home at the time. Their application form to CFS said he moved out, not her.

"You were unaware CFS was relying on you and Ron to provide shelter and safety to Phoenix?" Gord McKinnon, the lawyer for the province, asked Edwards.

"Phoenix was relying on us," said Edwards. "CFS had no involvement with the child, despite what your records say."

McKinnon asked Edwards about the time Phoenix got an infection. Edwards said she took Phoenix to the doctor but, without an official health-card number for the child, the doctor wouldn't remove it.

"How difficult would it have been to get a health number for Phoenix... could you ask Steve (Sinclair, Phoenix's father)?" McKinnon asked.

Steve Sinclair was not "the easiest person to get a hold of," answered Edwards. She said she couldn't ask Manitoba Health for the information because she wasn't related to Phoenix.

"Was the reason you didn't request a medical card for Phoenix (because) you were trying to stay under the radar?" McKinnon asked, suggesting Edwards' own experience with child welfare as a teen mom was the reason she avoided CFS with Phoenix.

Edwards told the inquiry earlier that at age 17 she was in an abusive relationship and her daughter was taken into care. Commissioner Ted Hughes rejected a request to have Edwards' file entered as evidence.

On Thursday, McKinnon suggested to Edwards: "Your view is this apprehension was unwarranted and that is why you have a distrust of CFS."

"I was 17 years old and living with a man who beat me almost to death. I do not think the apprehension of my daughter was unwarranted... I was five-foot, 120 pounds and I couldn't protect my daughter," she responded.

From 2000 to the end of 2003, Edwards looked after Phoenix more than the child's mother or father but didn't alert CFS, the inquiry heard.

"Were you taking care of Phoenix to avoid CFS?" McKinnon asked.

"I was taking care of Phoenix because Steve (Sinclair) asked me to look after Phoenix... I wasn't trying to hide Phoenix from CFS."

But she admitted she didn't want Phoenix to end up in the system. "(Phoenix) was safe and she was happy and giggled every day," Edwards said before breaking down.

"Keep in mind what we're dealing with," she said sobbing. "My God. Everything is cold, hard facts here."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2012 A9

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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