Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Phoenix inquiry could be delayed

Child and Family Services union files Appeal Court motion

  • Print

A union representing Child and Family Services workers has filed a court motion that could temporarily derail the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union applied to the Manitoba Court of Appeal Friday to force the commission of inquiry to justify its legal status.

Inquiry's timetable

  • Dec. 2011-March 2012 -- The commission is now interviewing witnesses.
  • April 5 -- Commission to unveil the list of witnesses it will call at the public hearing.
  • May 16 -- Commission to rule on any publication ban requests.
  • May 23 -- Commission to begin hearing witness testimony at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
  • Aug. 3 -- Inquiry breaks for the summer.
  • Sept. 4-Nov. 8 -- Completion of witness testimony.
  • Nov. 26-Dec. 10 -- Closing submissions by the various parties.

MGEU lawyer John Harvie said under the Evidence Act, the commission must "submit a stated case" to the Appeal Court. A court date has been set for Thursday.

The MGEU wrote to commission counsel Sherri Walsh on Tuesday asking the commission to approach the high court itself. Inquiry commissioner Ted Hughes refused, lobbing the ball back into the MGEU's court. In a letter earlier Friday, Hughes said if the union wanted to take the matter to court it should "do so in a timely manner."

"Over 10 months have passed since the inquiry was established. Commission counsel and staff have been hard at work ever since doing necessary preparatory work, including the interviewing of witnesses, in order to be ready for the commencement of the presentation of evidence on May 23, 2012," Hughes wrote.

He said "it is in the public interest" the current inquiry timetable be maintained.

Later the same day, the union filed its court motion. "It's in everybody's interests that this be dealt with quickly," Harvie said. He declined to be specific about what the union is seeking, saying he didn't want to argue his case in the press.

Phoenix Sinclair was five years old when she was murdered in 2005. But it took more than nine months for provincial child-welfare officials to even realize she was missing, despite the fact she had been in the care of Child and Family Services and only recently returned to her birth mother. Her remains were found in 2006 in the dump on the Fisher River First Nation.

Phoenix's mother, Samantha Kematch, and stepfather, Karl McKay, were convicted of first-degree murder in 2008 and given life sentences with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

The NDP government called an inquiry to examine the circumstances that led to her death, following a period of abuse that included prolonged beatings and broken bones all the way from her pelvis to her skull. Why various child-welfare agencies failed Phoenix is the key subject of the inquiry.

Walsh said in an interview Friday the commission is currently conducting pre-hearing interviews with witnesses. It was to begin interviewing CFS workers -- members of the MGEU -- on Thursday. So far none has been.

"I have to say that I was surprised to receive this letter and disappointed," Walsh said, noting the inquiry's timetable has been posted since Oct. 24.

The MGEU has sought a publication ban on the names and faces of the nearly 40 CFS employees who are expected to testify at the inquiry. It said the ability of child-welfare workers to do their jobs and earn the trust of families coping with abuse or neglect will be compromised if their names and photos are widely published or broadcast.

In its letter to the commission earlier this week, the MGEU essentially argued the inquiry is not validly constituted. But on Friday, Harvie rejected the notion the union was trying to scuttle the inquiry.

"All the opposition is that we believe that there is some difficulty with respect to this order in council (establishing the commission). And we want this determined," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2012 A3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google