The Manitoba Court of Appeal has ruled that witness interview transcripts from the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry do not need to be disclosed, meaning the delayed hearing into the five-year-old girl's death may resume soon.
In a written decision released late Monday, the province's top court ruled against the disclosure of more than 10,000 pages of transcripts.
Four child and family services authorities had requested access in August to the transcripts, which were from interviews inquiry staff conducted with potential witnesses.
After inquiry commissioner Ted Hughes refused to release the documents, the Court of Appeal halted the inquiry on Sept. 7 — less than a week after hearings began — to review his decision.
Had the court allowed the child and family services authorities to access the transcripts, it could have resulted in months of delays.
The inquiry, which began in early September in Winnipeg, had been looking at circumstances surrounding the little girl's death in 2005 on the Fisher River First Nation.
Phoenix had been neglected and repeatedly abused by Samantha Kematch, her biological mother, and Karl McKay, her stepfather.
The young girl had been taken into custody by Manitoba child welfare officials at least twice in her short life — once at birth and again three years later — but she was returned to Kematch each time.
While Phoenix was killed on the Fisher River reserve in June 2005, it was not until nine months later that her body was found, wrapped in plastic, in an unmarked shallow grave near the community's landfill.
Kematch and McKay were convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder in connection with Phoenix's death.
According to evidence presented at the pair's trial, Phoenix was often neglected, confined, shot with a BB gun and forced to eat her own vomit.
The inquiry was established to look at how Manitoba's child and family services officials handled Phoenix's case and why her death went undiscovered for months.