Witnesses

Diva Faria

Diva Faria

  • Former CFS Winnipeg supervisor
  • Signed off on closing Phoenix Sinclair's file in December 2004 and March 2005

Plain common sense

Monday, January 21

Diva Faria is in a tough spot. She was the last supervisor to sign off on closing Phoenix Sinclair's CFS Winnipeg file not once, but twice in the space of four months.

In both instances, no one from the agency actually eyeballed the little girl.
 
The first time was in December 2004, when social worker Shelley Willox was unable to refer the file to intake or get face-to-face contact with the child.

The second and final time was in March 2005. The agency had been told that Phoenix was being locked in a room and there was an "unspecific allegation of abuse."

CFS's crisis response unit (CRU) tried twice to visit the little girl's McGee Street home in Winnipeg. Unsuccessful, the file was forwarded to intake for follow up.

The file was punted back to CRU. Two more CRU workers made a field visit to the house.

As we know, Samantha Kematch wouldn't let them inside. They left after a brief conversation and the lead worker suggested the file be closed.

Diva Faria told the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry that she trusted the judgment of the workers, especially the senior worker, Bill Leskiw.

Leskiw has already told the inquiry that he was just a back-up worker, there simply for safety and support. He said the file belonged to the other worker, Christopher Zalevich.
 
No matter which worker suggested closing the file, we know Faria signed off on it.

Today, under cross-examination from lawyer Jeff Gindin, she had to defend that decision.

Gindin: You were convinced you said -- based on the information you had -- you were convinced there were no safety concerns. That's the phrase you used, and I'm wondering how you could possibly be convinced of that when Phoenix hadn't been seen?

Faria: Again, I can only speculate based on the recording as to why I closed the case. If I felt that there were any protection concerns, I would have never closed the case. So yes, I was convinced.

Gindin: But you didn't know. Is that a fair statement? You didn't simply didn't know.

Faria: In hindsight, that is correct.

Gindin also grilled Faria on why she didn't keep the file open longer so that someone from the agency could make another attempt to see Phoenix. Faria agreed there were other options available to her to keep the file open.

Faria also spoke of widespread confusion within the agency at that time. In 2004-05, there had been a cascade of changing procedures and standards for CFS. This in and of itself is complicated enough.

Add to that Faria's assertion that no one was actually trained in these new standards. In fact, Faria told the inquiry it was several years after Phoenix's death before she received any sort of supervisory training on standards.

Gindin wanted to know -- standards aside -- what role common sense played in the agency's decision-making process.

"Did plain common sense," he asked, "play any role?"

Faria was reluctant to give a yes or no. Commissioner Ted Hughes had to intervene and put the question to her directly.

Hughes: Mr. Gindin is asking you whether common sense plays a role...

Faria:
Absolutely, yes.

And after a gruelling two days on the stand, Faria was dismissed.

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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