Child advocate blasted over Phoenix Sinclair inquiry remark

Manitoba's Children's Advocate, Darlene MacDonald, is under fire after expressing concerns about the amount of money being spent on the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.

Children's advocate blasted over inquiry remarks

11 years ago
Duration 1:46
Some are calling for the resignation of Manitoba's children's advocate over remarks she made to a newspaper about the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.

Manitoba's children's advocate, Darlene MacDonald, is under fire after expressing concerns about the amount of money being spent on the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.

A First Nation leader and the province's Liberal leader called for MacDonald's resignation on Monday, in the wake of comments she made to the Winnipeg Free Press.

In an article published late last week, MacDonald said she personally feels money spent on the inquiry, now estimated at $4.7 million, could be better used elsewhere in Manitoba's child welfare system.

Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo of the Southern Chiefs Organization said he was outraged to hear MacDonald criticizing the inquiry, which will examine the role of the child welfare system in the aboriginal child's short and violent life.

"MacDonald needs to remember that she's not a union steward — she's the child advocate — and she should be reminded of her work there," he told reporters Monday.

"Maybe she should be reminded that she can't do her job and she needs to leave that position."

Death discovered in 2006

Five-year-old Phoenix was killed in the basement of a home on the Fisher River First Nation in June 2005, but her death was not discovered until March 2006.

The child died following neglect and repeated abuse by her mother, Samantha Kematch, and stepfather, Karl McKay, both of whom were convicted of first-degree murder in 2008.

Phoenix had been taken by Child and Family Services at least twice during her short life, but she was returned to her mother each time.

A public inquiry into Phoenix's death was ordered by the provincial government in 2006.

It was expected to start hearing evidence on July 4, but that date was pushed back to Sept. 5, officials announced last week.

In the wake of MacDonald's comments, Shannacappo asked Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard to call for her resignation, which Gerrard did during question period Monday afternoon.

MacDonald responds

In a statement issued late Monday afternoon, MacDonald said her comments to the newspaper were meant to underline the mandate of her office, which was involved in two external reviews into Phoenix's death.

Those two reviews produced more than 200 recommendations on how child and welfare services could be improved.

"The public inquiry taking place on the Phoenix Sinclair case represents a significant, additional investment, ($4.7 million thus far) to further examine the factors involved in this child's death," MacDonald said.

"Could the system have done more for Phoenix? Unquestionably — we've made 200 recommendations in support of that conclusion," she added.

"It's the job of the [office of the children's advocate] to examine the best interests of all children within the child welfare system. My comments were meant to underline that mandate."

Below is the full text of MacDonald's public statement: