SOR #1 (Social worker and child therapist)
Amber Vialette (CFS Business Analyst CFSIS)
Alana Brownlee (CEO, Winnipeg Child & Family Services)
Tuesday, November 13
How could a five-year-old girl simply disappear? How could she have been left in the care of people who horrifically abused her and ultimately killed her? And why was her body not discovered for months after the fact?
These are the questions the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry will try to answer over the next six months, and it's going to be a tough slog, with more than 100 witnesses set to testify.
And it will come at enormous cost to the province: the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry is expected to be the most expensive Inquiry in Manitoba's history.
Before the Manitoba Court of Appeal hit the pause button on hearings in September, we heard from some key players involved in Sinclair's early care. From the moment she was born, it seems, little Phoenix was destined to end up in child and family services (CFS) care.
A person only referred to in the inquiry as Source of Reference No. 1 did the very first assessment of the infant's chances with her family hours after her birth. S.O.R. No. 1 was concerned by Samantha Kematch's apparent lack of interest in parenting and by the fact there were no preparations in place for Phoenix's arrival: no crib, no blankets, no sleepers.
Enter social worker Marnie Saunderson, charged with following up on the Sinclair file. In her testimony, she spoke of Kematch as a person who was troubled during her own time in CFS care. She said Kematch's records indicated that she was physically and emotionally abused. Her files showed a pattern of violent, disruptive, and threatening behaviour.
And there was another red flag: Kematch had a previous child that was also taken into care.
Yet despite all this, there was hope that maybe with the right support Kematch and Steve Sinclair could one day raise their daughter.
"We're a bit in the business of hope," Saunderson testified.
Finally we heard from Andrew Orobko, Saunderson's supervisor. He spoke of his own misgivings about Kematch and his belief she might have some form of mental disorder or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Orobko outlined a two-pronged approach to assessing whether Kematch and Steve Sinclair were fit to be parents, asking: Do you want to parent? Are you able to parent?
We're very early on in the narrative of Phoenix Sinclair's life and her encounters with CFS, but already a series of red flags are furiously waving at us, particularly with regards to Samantha Kematch.
The biggest red flag of all: both Saunderson and Orobko said mothers with troubled histories, like Samantha Kematch, are a dime a dozen in the system.
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.