Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hughes judges

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The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union has folded its cards, saying it will not appeal a decision denying the union's request to ban media at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry from identifying social workers who testify. Commissioner Ted Hughes's ruling Thursday builds upon similar decisions that have repeatedly upheld the public's right to full disclosure of the facts when public bodies are involved in tragedies and wrongdoing.

Judge Hughes dismissed as speculative the contention of the union and child welfare agencies revealing the names and faces of social workers would expose them to greater risk. The very nature of their jobs brings child welfare workers into conflict with families they encounter. Judge Hughes found there was no good evidence that identifying those who had contact with little Phoenix Sinclair, who was murdered and missing for nine months before anyone in authority noticed, would elevate the danger the workers face.

The commissioner leaned on a wealth of jurisprudence underscoring the necessity of transparency in an inquiry called to hold individuals accountable, to answer questions outstanding in the public mind and to seek potential fixes to factors that contributed to failings. It was argued the media sensationalize tragedies involving children and people in the community jump to conclusions and blame workers. Judge Hughes noted making all the facts fully available to the public should ameliorate that problem, rather than compound it.

The other groups that joined the MGEU request, one of a number of applications that have delayed repeatedly the public hearings, should take the union's cue, forgo an appeal and finally accept the time for full disclosure, transparency and accountability is long past due.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2012 A12

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