Lorna Hanson

Lorna Hanson

  • Former CFS Winnipeg supervisor
  • Oversaw work of Kerri-Lynn Greeley, Delores Chief-Abigosis, Kathy Peterson


Thursday, November 29

Phoenix Sinclair's life was a revolving door of social workers and caregivers. As we mine the case notes, many characters come and go.

Today the sad little tale of her baby sister, Echo, unfolded again.

Echo was born April 29, 2001. At the time, Phoenix had just turned one.

Shortly after Echo was born, her parents split. Case notes reveal that one night in June, Samantha Kematch came home to Steve Sinclair with a hickey on her neck.

Kematch had taken up again with her ex-boyfriend and the father of her first child, a little boy who became a permanent ward of Cree Nation Child and Family Services.

The break-up was increasingly volatile. Police were called to their Magnus Avenue home on a report of domestic violence. Kematch alleged that Sinclair assaulted her.

Sinclair told social workers that Kematch had absconded with the child tax credit and gone drinking. He said Kematch was boozing all the time and was out of control.

Police charged Sinclair with assault. While police sorted the matter out, Echo was left in Kematch's care.

Two days later, Kematch returned Echo to Sinclair. The infant was reportedly "dirty, hungry, and smelled badly."

Social worker Delores Chief-Abigosis visited Sinclair a few days later on July 6, 2001. She reported that Sinclair held the baby in his arms, fed her, and played with her.

Just a week later, Echo developed a fast-acting lower respiratory infection. On the morning of July 15, 2001, Echo was found dead in her bed.

Sinclair rushed her to hospital, but it was far too late.

Her death made the couple's split even more acrimonious. When Samantha Kematch observed blood on the infant's body, she wanted an inquest and questioned whether Sinclair had abused the child.

The situation at the funeral home was so explosive, police were called in.

Social workers intervened and determined that the blood was simply from the autopsy -- the mortician had done a shoddy job preparing the infant for the funeral.

But the damage was done. As a precautionary measure, separate visiting hours were arranged: one set of hours for Kematch's family, another set of hours for the Sinclairs.

I think of one thing whenever Echo comes up in testimony. I think about the time Phoenix was apprehended in 2003.

Her caregivers noted that when Phoenix was placed in a temporary care suite at a Winnipeg hotel, she was really excited to see that a baby was also there.

I wonder if Phoenix ever knew she had a little sister.

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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