Caregiver told Phoenix was OK months after death

A caregiver who tried to raise the alarm that something had happened to Phoenix Sinclair testified Monday at an inquiry into the little girl's death.

A witness in the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry said she made multiple calls

Phoenix Sinclair was killed at age five on the Fisher River First Nation in 2005. (Phoenix Sinclair inquiry)

A caregiver who tried to raise the alarm that something had happened to Phoenix Sinclair testified Monday at an inquiry into the little girl’s death.

The witness, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, said Kematch was being emotionally and verbally abusive toward Sinclair in the months leading up to her death.

Inquiry blog

Read the latest blog entries from the CBC's Katie Nicholson, who is covering the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry:

The Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding 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 killing.

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.

On Monday, the witness testified they cared for Sinclair occasionally and became concerned for the girl’s safety in 2005. The witness said Sinclair was normally happy and outgoing but became withdrawn around Kematch.

The witness said Kematch was offered welfare money associated with Sinclair’s care, if they could continue caring for the girl. Kematch declined, according to the witness.

In August 2005, the witness became extremely concerned something had happened to the five-year-old girl.

The inquiry heard the witness called numerous child welfare agencies throughout the province to try and locate Sinclair. Eventually, the witness was told by Sinclair’s social worker at the time, the child was well and doing fine. At that point, Sinclair had been dead for nearly two months.

Supervisor defends decision to close Phoenix file

Sinclair’s file with child and family services could have been kept open but wasn’t, according to testimony heard Monday.

The child-welfare worker who closed Sinclair’s file shortly before she was killed faced tough questions about why the file was closed.

Diva Faria admitted she sometimes closed files when she didn’t have all of the facts about a household or child.

"I think we tried to be as meticulous as we could," said Faria. "Were there instances where that occurred? Yes."

Faria was responsible for closing the girl’s case for the final time, just months before she was beaten to death.

Previous testimony revealed two workers were sent to the family’s apartment to follow up on a tip that Phoenix was being abused. They spoke with Kematch but never saw Sinclair or her home. They left and recommended the case be closed.

Lawyer Jeff Gindin, representing Sinclair’s father Steve Sinclair, pressed Faria about whether or not she could have kept the case open.

 "It would have been an option to keep the file open longer if we felt that there was a need to keep it open longer," said Faria. She added, "Again, I don't remember what discussions I had with the worker that would have made that ultimate determination."

She said the decision was a result of confusing standards, heavy caseloads and a safety assessment that found no risk to Sinclair.

Changing standards for safety assessments now mean a plan would have been put in place based on the high level of risk in the home, according to Faria.

Gindin asked Faria if common sense played a role in her decisions. She conceded, after prompting from the inquiry’s commissioner, Ted Hughes, that it did play a role.

With files from the Canadian Press