Diana Verrier (via video link)
Debbie De Gale
Tuesday, December 11
As a reporter, I occasionally go nuts when someone changes my copy and inserts an inaccuracy.
Often it's a mistake from a well-meaning colleague transferring a radio script to a TV script to the web. But sometimes it results in errors that ultimately make you look bad.
I have to admit here that I do make my own mistakes. But every now and then I find myself wearing someone else's mistake, and it's not very fun.
This is perhaps one of the factors at play in the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry's "altered file mini-drama" that has been playing out over the last two days.
Social worker Debbie De Gale testified that she clearly remembered checking a 24-hour response time on a safety assessment form she filed on Phoenix Sinclair in May 2004.
She also testified that the accompanying Crisis Response Unit (CRU) intake file was missing two important pieces of information. She believed the documents had been altered.
De Gale didn't directly blame anyone for removing the information in the CRU intake file. However, she did point fingers when it came to the safety assessment downgrade -- directly at Diana Verrier, her supervisor at the time.
Indeed, Verrier's initials are clearly visible on the form next to to the assessment downgrade.
Today, Verrier testified that she had no independent memory of that time, but when she looked at the forms it seemed to her she was merely making a correction -- not altering a response time.
In a previous page on the safety assessment form, De Gale had checked a
box for "neglect," which falls under the heading of concerns requiring a
48-hour response time.
In her testimony, De Gale said she had to tick that box because there was no box for "neglect" under the 24-hour response heading.
That, asserted Verrier, was why it was clear to her that this was a simple case of correction, not alteration.
But Verrier could not say she made the correction -- just that she had put her initials next to it.
As for De Gale's allegations that information had been removed from the CRU intake report, Verrier flat-out vetoed any suggestion that she may have done it.
"There would be absolutely no reason to remove information from a worker's report," she said.
"It would be really important the report had all the necessary information, that it was complete, and that it would be unethical to remove any information from a report."
Twenty-four hours ... 48 hours ... was it a "correction" or an "alteration"?
Who can really say? It's been nearly 10 years and this situation has boiled down to a "she said/she said" scenario.
So why is this such a bone of contention? It could have something to do with a 2006 review of the agency's handling of Phoenix Sinclair's care.
That review criticized the CRU for selecting a 48-hour response time in the little girl's case. It stated that a more urgent response was required.
If De Gale did tick off the 24-hour response time, it must be galling for her to sit with that knowledge -- forced to wear that mistake.
If Verrier was simply fixing what she perceived to be an error, the allegation of altering -- a term that carries with it a murky meaning -- must be equally galling.
So why should this point -- of all the points raised at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry -- really matter?
Phoenix Sinclair is still dead. Her short life was brutal.
Everything else seems like administrative wrangling: small stuff.
The only problem is ... the small stuff is adding up.
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.