A copy picture of murder victim Phoenix Sinclair.
Credits: Winnipeg Sun files
WINNIPEG - Allowing media to publish and broadcast the names and faces of social workers who will testify at a public inquiry into five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair's death was the right decision, her family's lawyer said.
"They're happy that the public will have a full airing without any secrecy or anonymity," said Winnipeg lawyer Jeff Gindin, who is acting on behalf of the slain girl's former foster mom Kim Edwards and biological dad Steve Sinclair.
Inquiry Commissioner Ted Hughes rejected a controversial request for a publication ban advanced by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) and several provincial Child and Family Services agencies.
MGEU and the CFS agencies requested the ban based on concerns social workers would be "pilloried" by the media and their personal safety jeopardized.
As well, the groups argued publicity could harm the functioning of the CFS system in general.
But in his 57-page written decision, Hughes said the groups didn't deliver a compelling enough case to justify such a ban at a full-blown public inquiry.
"Without any convincing or specific evidence of an increased safety risk to the social workers resulting from publication of their names ... I cannot accept that there is a serious risk to the personal safety of any worker that would necessitate anonymity," he said.
Hughes said a publication ban would also hamper the inquiry's mandate to "educate and inform" the public at large.
"Central to this inquiry is the question of why a young child was dead for nine months before the authorities became aware," he said. "Exactly who played a role in Phoenix's life ... is not a trivial part of Phoenix's story."
MGEU lawyer Garth Smorang was quoted in media reports saying the union does not plan to appeal Hughes's ruling.
Witness testimony is slated to begin Sept. 5.
Phoenix was found buried in a shallow grave on the Fisher River First Nation in March 2006, nine months after she was killed.
The toddler's mother, Samantha Kematch and her boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted of first-degree murder for the five-year-old's death in 2008.
During the trial, court heard the pair repeatedly beat, neglected and locked up the little girl.
Phoenix was a ward of Child and Family Services for much of her short life. She was not in care at the time she was murdered.