Multiple child-welfare workers searched for information on Phoenix Sinclair after frantic calls from a former caregiver — but none tried to check on the girl or opened a child protection file.
Four child-welfare workers testified before the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry Tuesday, telling the inquiry they didn’t remember taking calls from a concerned person who had once cared for Sinclair.
Read the latest blog entries from the CBC's Katie Nicholson, who is covering the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry:
Computer records show all four workers searched for the girl’s name in a child-welfare database the day the calls came in on Aug. 24, 2005.
The inquiry is examining the circumstances around the death of five-year-old Sinclair. Sinclair was killed in 2005 on Fisher River First Nation. Her mother, Samantha Kematch, and her mother’s boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted of first-degree murder in her death.
Sinclair spent much of her short life in the care of several child and family services agencies, and her death went undetected by workers for nine months.
Testimony from a witness on Monday revealed numerous calls were made to multiple CFS agencies in Manitoba by a former caregiver who was concerned for Sinclair’s wellbeing. The caregiver was told Sinclair was fine and doing well. In fact, she had been dead for two months.
On Tuesday, the inquiry heard the four workers who searched for Sinclair’s name would have seen records showing she had been in and out of the child-welfare system for most of her life.
All four workers testified there was no concern for Sinclair’s welfare at the time, despite the calls from the former caregiver and the girl not being seen by the agency in months.
Deanna Shaw was one of the four workers who testified. Shaw said she didn’t remember the call but said inquiries about children don’t necessarily raise red flags.
Commission counsel Sherri Walsh asked what would have had to be said for action to be taken by the agency. "What I would be looking for would be something that — Phoenix — they were aware that Phoenix was being hurt," said Shaw. "That they’re aware of that or seen it or what have you."
Agencies provide conflicting testimony
The inquiry heard Tuesday Manitoba’s employment assistance program provides information to CFS as needed, directly contradicting previous testimony from CFS workers.
Tim Herkert, a supervisor with Manitoba’s Employment and Income Assistance program, testified CFS workers could have had information if they needed it.
"I would suggest there are no limits," said Herkert. "[EIA workers] would be directed to share what information would be required to support that investigation."
Child-welfare workers have previously testified at the inquiry they could not get information about McKay from EIA due to privacy concerns. Workers did not have McKay’s birthdate and testified they could not look up his criminal record without it.
Herkert countered that testimony Tuesday, saying CFS and EIA regularly exchange information on clients.