Marie Pickering

Marie Pickering

  • Family support worker
  • Worked with Steve Sinclair & Samantha Kematch for 6 months in 2000
Kathy Peterson

Kathy Peterson

  • Former CFS family services worker
  • Was Steve Sinclair's worker between 1990 and 1997
  • Sinclair's family turned to Peterson in 2001 with concerns that Kematch was abusing Phoenix

Lost in the ether

Tuesday, November 20

Imagine being handed a 12-year-old time card and being asked to use it to reconstruct your week. It happened today at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.

Marie Pickering is a family support worker. In 2000, CFS Winnipeg asked her to work with Steve Sinclair and Samantha Kematch. The young parents needed help to get their daughter Phoenix back.

As a family support worker, Pickering helps parents accrue basic skills, using everything from home visits to shopping trips. But whatever she did with Sinclair and Kematch is lost in the ether.

Even though Pickering files notes regularly on her clients, the agency was unable to locate anything from her time with Phoenix Sinclair's parents -- except, of course, for her time cards.

Pickering was relaxed on the stand, even a little playful as she cracked a few jokes. But then she got a bit of a pass, since the agency dog effectively ate her homework.

This is the second time a witness hit the stand without the benefit of notes. Last week, CFS supervisor Andrew Orobko admitted that he destroyed all of his notes from Phoenix's time in care.

Today the inquiry also heard from Kathy Peterson, the social worker who closed Sinclair's file in October of 2001.

Peterson started on the stand yesterday afternoon. This morning -- barely 45 minutes in -- she had to ask for a break.

Thin and unsteady on her feet, Peterson is clearly not well and the line of questioning took the good out of her. But she rallied for a longer afternoon session with clear and well thought-out answers.

Peterson said she knew Steve Sinclair from his time in care as a young boy. She remembered him as shy and gentle.

Sinclair's sisters reached out to Peterson when they had concerns Kematch might pose a danger to Phoenix. When Peterson walked back into Sinclair's life, there was a lot going on.

On April 29, 2001, Samantha Kematch had another little girl. It was the third pregnancy that Kematch had hidden. At the time, Phoenix had just turned one.

A short while later, Kematch would take up again with the father of her first child. She and Steve Sinclair split, and Sinclair became the main caregiver of the new infant.

That little girl would die just a few months later, in July, from a lower respiratory infection.

Suddenly single and grieving the death of his second daughter, Steve Sinclair was in a difficult situation.

But Peterson believed that with the help of his sisters and friend Kim Edwards, Sinclair was Phoenix's best option.

In fact, Peterson told Sinclair and his sisters to call police or the CFS emergency line if Kematch tried to take the little girl away.
As she closed the file, Peterson left explicit directions: should the file ever be re-opened, the first thing worker must do is refer to Samantha Kematch's CFS files. Those files detailed Kematch's past violent and anti-social behaviour.

We haven't yet heard what happened next.

Inside the inquiry

With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.


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