Lisa Marie Bruce
Tuesday, April 16
At this stage in the proceedings, no one is surprised to hear that Karl McKay is a violent man. He's already been convicted for the murder of Phoenix Sinclair.
McKay's criminal record and previous dealings with CFS have all been entered into the record. Even one of his former parole officers came forward to illustrate the threat he posed -- not just to women and children -- but to her staff of corrections professionals.
It's no secret McKay was filled with rage. It's not a secret to the commission and certainly not to his family.
Today, Ashley Roulette testified that her uncle Karl was a constant presence in her life, and that wasn't a good thing. She described him as mean and very aggressive.
"He wasn't scared to raise his hand to anyone, I guess," Roulette testified, before specifying the target of that hand: "women and children."
Roulette was on the receiving end of that fury when she was 16.
She told the inquiry, "He just punched me right in the middle of the face and I got two black eyes."
Roulette said she beat her uncle away with a phone and called police.
Around the same time, Roulette suspected Phoenix Sinclair was being abused. She noticed bruises on the little girl.
She told the inquiry that Phoenix was being locked in a bedroom for long periods and wasn't allowed out to go to the bathroom. Instead, the four-year-old had a series of "accidents" in the bedroom.
Lawyer Jeff Gindin pressed Roulette today on why she didn't call CFS to report her concerns.
Roulette replied: "I was 15. I was scared, I didn't exactly know what was going on in their household, so it wasn't any of my business to call."
But one of McKay's nieces says she did try to contact CFS. Lisa Marie Bruce surprised everyone today -- including commission lawyers -- when she testified that she called the child welfare agency to report concerns Phoenix was in danger.
Bruce had previously been interviewed by RCMP during the Phoenix investigation and she also testified at the criminal trial.
But this was the first time she mentioned phoning CFS because, she told the inquiry, it was the first time she had been asked.
Bruce, who was 17 at the time, said the person on the other end of the phone line quickly shut her down when her age was revealed.
"I tried to call," she testified, "and they said I was too young to call CFS, 'cause I wasn't 18."
"Who told you you were too young?" demanded commissioner Ted Hughes.
"CFS," Bruce replied. "Winnipeg CFS."
In cross-examination, CFS lawyer Sacha Paul suggested that no such call was ever placed to the agency. But Bruce stuck to her guns and insisted she made the call.
Today was rife with unsettling details. Bruce testified that Samantha Kematch, Phoenix's biological mother, regularly shoved Phoenix and called the four-year-old a whore, a bitch and a slut.
Another frankly creepy detail emerged in Roulette's testimony: she would chat online with Kematch after she and McKay moved out of Winnipeg. Kematch confided that she didn't like the new Fisher River house because "someone had died in it."
Roulette assumed Kematch was referring to an earlier tenant, not her daughter.
Both nieces grew suspicious when McKay and Kematch moved back to Winnipeg from Fisher River without Phoenix.
They were repeatedly told the little girl was now living with her father in Ontario.
Bruce asked Kematch if she missed Phoenix. Kematch replied, "No, because she was a bad kid."
When McKay and Kematch were settled once again in Winnipeg, Roulette told the inquiry it was understood that McKay was not to be left alone with children.
"Who made that decision?" pressed commission lawyer Elizabeth McCandless.
"Sam," Roulette replied.
"Did you ever ask her why?" asked McCandless.
"No," Roulette replied ominously, "because I already knew why."
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.