Witnesses

Linda Trigg

Linda Trigg

  • Former CEO, Winnipeg CFS
  • Left agency in 2004 to start psychology practice
Dan Berg

Dan Berg

  • Former CFS manager
  • Oversaw the team that finally closed Phoenix Sinclair's file

View from the top

Thursday, January 24

The search for answers at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry is moving up the food chain. Today it heard from two witnesses: a senior manager and a former CEO of Winnipeg Child and Family Services.

Dan Berg started on the stand yesterday. He's the manager who oversaw the work of the final social work team asked to assess Phoenix Sinclair in March 2005.

The workers, we know, closed the file without anyone seeing Phoenix or assessing her safety. Their supervisor, Diva Faria, signed off on the decision.

Later reports on how the agency handled the file would call the decision "catastrophic."

Berg was a tough nut to crack. He pushed back and wasn't afraid to get into a few aggressive word tussles.

He also stood by his underlings. He refused to condemn their work. But he did testify the team didn't have to close Phoenix's file and had three other options available to it.

Berg spoke of tremendous workload and of being, himself, somewhat unprepared for the role of manager.

The most interesting exchange came during cross-examination. The agency had a cascade of changing standards in the early- to mid-2000s. There was also little in the way of training on those standards.

Lawyer Jeff Gindin wanted to know what effect that had on the workers.

Gindin: Did you ever feel that there were too many manuals and guidelines and policies and all of that?

Berg: I did, sir.

Gindin: And perhaps not enough common sense, which is a word I know you don't like to talk about, but I do.

Berg: Well, sir, standards don't have anything to do with common sense. There are guiding principles for us to follow.

Next up: Linda Trigg, a clinical psychologist who also wore the mantle of CEO of Winnipeg CFS between 2001 and 2004. Trigg has since left the agency to start her own practice.

Today, with her view from the top, she described a deeply troubled system.

Trigg spoke of enormous employee turnover in the years leading up to Phoenix's death: 100 per cent in some units.

"You had," she testified, "the most junior people filling some of the roles requiring sophisticated judgement."

But Trigg's top concern was lack of training. Most of the front-line workers were coming to CFS still wet behind the ears from their Bachelor of Social Work degrees.

According to Trigg, that meant they lacked essential skills: they didn't know how to do proper assessments and could miss asking families important questions.

"And that," commission counsel Sherri Walsh pushed, "was something that you felt was necessary for workers to have?"

"Absolutely!" Trigg agreed.

"I don't think that anybody coming right out of school is 100 per cent skilled in doing all that. It takes experience, supervision. It takes a supervisor to say, 'But when that happened, did you also think that this might be occurring, too?'"

Trigg also touched on the much-maligned practice of note-shredding. We have heard of workers on the front lines and in supervisory roles periodically destroying notes at all stages of case management.

Today, Trigg sounded aghast by what the inquiry has learned was common practice.

"Never in my wildest dreams," she stated, "did I think somebody was shredding their notes."

Telling words from the top.

Inside the inquiry

With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.

Updates

Photo Gallery