Miriam Browne

Miriam Browne

  • Executive director, Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers
Carolyn Parsons

Carolyn Parsons

  • Former Child and Family Services (CFS) supervisor
  • Was supervisor to social worker Tracy Forbes

Order of the day

Tuesday, December 18

In a public inquiry as ambitious and long-running as the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, there are bound to be days when minutiae is the order of the day. Today was one of those days.

Former Child and Family Services (CFS) supervisor Carolyn Parsons was on the stand. Her testimony was essentially a re-tread of what we heard the day before from social worker Tracy Forbes -- but with a few distinct differences.

Forbes was asked to check in on Phoenix in May 2004 when the agency learned she was again living with her mother, Samatha Kematch.

Forbes had a difficult time getting in touch with the girl and there were two-week lapses in her attempts at contact. She told the inquiry that was because the unit was overworked.

She also failed to run Karl McKay's name through the CFS database upon learning he was living with Kematch. That, she said, wasn't usual procedure back then.

So what would Forbes's boss say?

Parsons agreed that the unit was overworked, but she said under-staffing wasn't the only reason.

Parsons blamed devolution. As Manitoba's child welfare system desperately tried to reorganize itself by the 2005 deadline, chaos reigned.

Parsons described hectic social workers scrambling to close and reroute files to new, more culturally appropriate agencies.

She spoke of stress in the office: uncertainty among social workers who were worried about what the future held for them.

Parsons said it would have been best practice for Forbes to run McKay's name through the CFS database. Yesterday, we learned that if Forbes had done so, she would have found a slew of records indicating McKay had a long and violent history.

Armed with that information, Parsons told the inquiry, the agency might have been able to remove McKay from the home.

Barring that, Parsons said, the agency might have apprehended Phoenix from Kematch and McKay -- a full year before the couple would eventually kill the little girl.

Much later in the day, the head of the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers took the stand. Miriam Browne testified about the lack of professional regulation in the province.

Manitoba is the only province in Canada without mandatory professional registration for social workers.

Browne said there are many people in the province who wear the title "social worker" who aren't up to regulatory snuff.

The province passed a professional regulation bill three years ago for social workers, but it has yet to be enacted. Today, Browne said she has heard it may finally come into effect late in 2013.

Browne is back on the stand tomorrow. She is expected to share some new information on the Phoenix Sinclair case.

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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