The inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair is still ongoing, with investigations of the child’s former social workers’ actions currently taking place.
Former CEO of Winnipeg Child and Family Services (CFS) Lance Barber answered questions regarding the workload and funding of the agency during his term there.
Barber said he did not feel hindered by the lack of funds, but did not deny the fact that there was pressure to provide the mandated services.
Barber also commented on the overabundance of people in need of their service and how they tried to make do with what they had.
“We also had a large number of children for which the state had become the guardian and we had a responsibility for those children, and we made investments in those children and we tried to be good financial stewards of the money that the people of Manitoba provided to us through the province.”
Linda Trigg, a former Winnipeg CFS CEO who took the position after Barber left, made similar statements.
She commented, as did Barber, that they were running a deficit in funding year after year during her employment.
Trigg also stated that “there were probably lots of things that I wanted to accomplish, but time and money wouldn’t allow them to happen [ . . . ] I was asked to hold the fort.”
It was reported that the Sinclair case was closed before the social workers had even seen Sinclair. They visited the residence and saw Sinclair’s half sister, who looked well taken after, and determined that there was no instance of abuse.
Trigg said that the workers should not have closed the case before seeing the child in question.
Shelley Willox, a CFS worker sent to inquire about Sinclair and her mother, claimed that her decision to close the file on Sinclair was warranted.
Willox said that closing the file was an acceptable response based on the lack of information proving the occurrence of abuse.
“Based on the information that I had and the concerns, or lack thereof, that were being reported to me at the time, do I agree — based on solely the report that I provided — that it was catastrophic that the file was closed at that time? No.”
It was only a few months after this incident that her mother Samantha Kematch and Kematch’s boyfriend, Karl McKay, beat Sinclair to death. Both have been convicted of first-degree murder.
The last to speak at the inquiry was Darlene MacDonald, former program manager at CFS, who was stunned to hear that the case had been repeatedly opened and closed.
“Looking at the case, I would have reviewed the history [ . . . ] Looked like they didn’t have many supports in place [ . . . ] and I would have expected it to be open long-term in Family Services.”