Tuesday, January 22
This inquiry usually takes its time with witnesses. This morning, however, the lawyers set a blistering pace: a rapid-fire succession of front-line CFS workers.
In an elaborate game of "connect the dots," computer records revealed exactly how the panicked calls of SOR #10 ricocheted through the child and family services system.
SOR #10 testified yesterday to making somewhere between 20 and 30 calls to every agency in the province, in an effort to locate Phoenix Sinclair.
The witness feared something had happened to the little girl who seemed to have vanished.
Computer records show on Aug. 24, 2005, at least five workers performed searches for Phoenix Sinclair or her mother in CFS databases.
The first person to search the database that day was Nicole Lussier, a social worker with Metis CFS. At 1:57 p.m. that day, she ran a Prior Contact Check on Phoenix.
Lussier testified that it was undoubtedly prompted by a concerned call, but she had no memory of getting the actual call.
Next up: Deanna Shaw, who also used to work with Metis CFS. Shaw searched for Phoenix Sinclair four times in the database starting at 2:15 p.m.
Shaw also couldn't recall getting a call from someone concerned about Phoenix Sinclair, but she testified her search would have had to have been prompted by a specific call.
Shaw, like all the others, didn't feel the caller's concerns had enough weight to re-open Phoenix's file or send a referral to the Crisis Response Unit.
Shaw said the fact that the little girl was missing wasn't in and of itself enough to get the ball rolling.
Commission counsel Sherri Walsh probed, "What would the caller have to say? What words would the caller have to use?"
"A variety of things," came Shaw's reply. "They were aware that Phoenix was being hurt, and that they're aware of that or seen it, or what have you, more specifically, what was going on for her."
With no evidence of an imminent threat, Shaw doesn't appear to have taken her file searched any further.
The computer log shows in less than an hour, receptionist Marie Chammartin was also running Phoenix's name through the system.
Chammartin did three searches between 2:50 p.m. and 3 p.m.: two for Phoenix and one for Samantha Kematch, the little girl's mother.
As a receptionist, Chammartin would screen calls and decide which ones need to go to social workers and which ones needed to go elsewhere.
She agreed today that she probably transferred the call to social worker Jennifer Strobbe.
At 3:20 p.m., the system shows Strobbe beginning the first of four searches for the little girl in the database. She doesn't remember a call or performing the searches.
It is perhaps no great surprise none of the workers remember a frantic call from Phoenix's former caregiver. 7 1/2 years have passed since that day.
The point Walsh appeared to find perplexing was despite Phoenix's weighty file, and concerns she hadn't been seen in months, none of the workers deemed the call a "child protection concern."
If they had, they would have flagged the file for follow-up by a social work unit.
Walsh pressed Strobbe on this point:
Walsh: And would you consider the evidence that I read out to you -- the information that I read out to you -- as constituting a child protection concern?
Strobbe: And the information you read out again was that she hadn't seen Phoenix?
Strobbe: Not without additional information ... no.
Walsh: If you combine the information with the results of what a search on Phoenix we know would have shown that is a five-year-old child had CFS activity every year of her life, including two apprehensions?
Strobbe: Without further information, I would not see that as a child protection concern. There could be a lot of reasons why someone hasn't seen a child, so without information to indicate ... that there was a concern at this time -- I likely would not have seen that as a child protection concern.
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.