Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A sad history

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1981 -- Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council established the first aboriginal child and family services agency in Manitoba through a special arrangement with the federal government.


1982 -- Tripartite Master Agreement signed in Manitoba laying the foundation to establish child welfare agencies for aboriginal families provincewide.

Associate Chief Judge Edwin Kimmelman commissioned to conduct an inquiry about the state of Manitoba's child welfare system, with a specific focus on aboriginal kids being adopted by or placed in foster care with non-aboriginal families.

Province bans practice of allowing native kids to be adopted by families outside of Manitoba, including in the United States.


1985 -- Kimmelman releases his final report, No Quiet Place. He called the CFS system "cultural genocide" and made more than four dozen recommendations including to establish an office of the child protector, and give control of child welfare for native kids off-reserve to native agencies.


Fall 1991 -- Aboriginal Justice Inquiry releases report including a series of recommendations for the child welfare system. Main thrust of recommendations was for province to establish a Métis CFS agency, and extend responsibility of aboriginal agencies on reserve to kids from those reserves living off-reserve.


January 1996 -- Nine-month-old Sophia Schmidt is killed by her stepmother, in whose care she'd been placed by Child and Family Services. Her death prompts an inquest that doesn't produce recommendations for more than seven years. In the meantime, province introduces computer system to help track kids as they move from one region to another.


February 1996 -- Nadine Beaulieu, 23 months, dies in Winnipegosis. She had been living in foster care on the Pine Creek Reserve. Her death was ruled a homicide -- the result of someone striking her in the stomach so hard it ruptured internal organs. She had at least 75 bruises all over her body, broken ribs and a broken pelvis and was severely dehydrated and malnourished. Her foster parents were initially charged with manslaughter but the case was thrown out of court because of police errors. An inquest is called into her case.


March 3, 1999 -- Judge John Guy releases inquest report into death of two-year-old Brian Thompson who died in foster care in 1994 of complications of the flu. Guy found little Brian was not properly monitored by social workers, and said workers carry too many case files.


November 1999 -- Province establishes Aboriginal Justice Inquiry -- Child Welfare Initiative implementation commission to begin handing over powers for child welfare to aboriginal administrations.


February and April 2000 -- Province signs agreements with Manitoba Métis Federation and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs regarding new authority for child welfare.


June 2002 -- Province introduces legislation to create four new child welfare authorities: Southern First Nations, Northern First Nations, Métis and General.


November 2003 -- Child welfare act changes are proclaimed. Process of transferring cases to the new authorities begins.


Feb. 7, 2003 -- Judge Arnold Conner releases inquest report on Sophia Schmidt's death, recommending an immediate commission to investigate high workloads with a view to setting provincial standards.


March 12, 2004 -- Judge Roger Gregoire releases report from inquest into beating death of 23-month-old Nadine Beaulieu. Workload stress on social workers is cited as a major concern, as is the fact the foster parents she was placed with had no training, were not screened for criminal records and were not properly monitored by social workers. The foster parents had prior criminal records for assault and drunk driving.

The social worker in Nadine's case had 50 children in her caseload as well as 30 additional family files at the time of Nadine's death. She had no formal or university training to be a social worker.


Jan. 14, 2005 -- Heaven Traverse dies in foster care. More than a year later, her foster parents, Darlene Fay Sutherland and Douglas Calvin Sutherland are charged with assault in connection to her death.


June 11, 2005 -- Phoenix Victoria Sinclair dies and is buried on the Fisher River First Nation.


March 11, 2006 -- Phoenix's death is made public when her mother, Samantha Kematch, and stepfather, Karl McKay, are arrested and charged with first-degree murder. They are awaiting trial.


March 21, 2006 -- Province orders three reviews of the system as a result including an external review of the system as a whole, a review of the kids with active CFS files who had died in the last three years, and a review of Phoenix's case specifically. The reviews are also tasked with checking on the safety of children whose case files were closed or transferred during devolution.


April 3, 2006 -- Social workers are given 30 days to visit and report on the condition of every kid in their caseload, to ensure no other children are in Phoenix's situation. The move reverses an earlier decision by Family Services Minister Christine Melnick not to check on every kid in care.


August 2006 -- Venecia Shanelle Audy, 3, is killed in Bowsman. Her mother, Melissa Audy, is charged with second-degree murder. Like Phoenix, Venecia was in and out of foster care her entire life.


September 2006 -- Premier Gary Doer moves an embattled Christine Melnick out as minister of Child and Family Services and replaces her with Gord Mackintosh.


Oct. 11, 2006 -- Children's Advocate Billie Schibler and ombudsman Irene Hamilton release results of three reviews ordered by province, with 289 recommendations for improvement. Province promises a major overhaul and injects $42 million into the system for more social workers, better training, better computer tracking systems and a prevention-based model of care to get to families before their kids have to be taken away.


November 2006 -- Province says it is no longer acceptable for child protection agencies to house foster kids in hotels after it is reported in the Free Press that the use of hotels skyrocketed 245 per cent since 1998. Government sets deadline of July 31, 2007, for all kids to be out of hotels.


July 22, 2007 -- Gage Dakota Guimond is taken off life-support at Children's Hospital in Winnipeg. It is the day after his second birthday. Six weeks earlier he had been placed in the care of his paternal great-aunt, Shirley Guimond, who is now charged with manslaughter. He had been moved out of a stable foster home in Selkirk because child welfare authorities wanted him to be with an aboriginal family member. Questions are raised about family reunification being done at all costs to the child.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 16, 2007

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