Murdered Winnipeg girl's child-welfare file was incomplete, inquiry hears

Credits: file photo


WINNIPEG - A Child and Family Services supervisor approved closing Phoenix Sinclair's case before the little girl's brutal murder despite child-welfare workers never seeing the child during an agency probe of allegations she was being locked up and abused by her mom.

"At the time, there was no specific requirement in the standards that we have face-to-face contact with all children when conducting an investigation," Diva Faria said Thursday at a public inquiry into Phoenix's June 2005 death.

"We had sent this case up to (another unit for follow-up), it was declined," Faria told Commissioner Ted Hughes.

She said she has no independent memory of Phoenix or her family's files, which she oversaw as supervisor of the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) three different times, in February 2003, December 2004 and again in March 2005.

"We have an allegation of non-specified abuse and an allegation of a child being locked in a room, which does not meet the referral criteria for abuse," Faria said of her March 9, 2005, decision to close the case.

That day, CRU worker Christopher Zalevich recommended closing the file to Faria, citing a lack of child-protection concerns. That was the same day he spoke with Phoenix's mom Samantha Kematch outside her apartment after she wouldn't let he and a colleague in.

Kematch explained away the suspected abuse to Zalevich and admitted she had a lock on her bedroom door. The workers left without going inside nor seeing Phoenix. They warned Kematch about the dangers of locking her daughter up.

Inquiry lawyer Sherri Walsh asserted to Faria that she knew neither worker saw Phoenix -- she could have been locked in the room while they stood there.

"We don't have information to that effect," Faria replied.
Earlier in her testimony she acknowledged the allegations of abuse and confinement required CFS to investigate.

Faria conceded it would have been "best practice" for CFS to have seen the little girl. She also testified how based on CFS "safety assessment" criteria used at the time, she would have requested a worker to attend to the allegations within a five-day period, not urgently.

Kematch and her boyfriend, Karl Wesley McKay, murdered Phoenix through horrific abuse in a home on Fisher River First Nation just months later and buried her body near a landfill. Her death went undiscovered until March 2006.

The inquiry resumes Monday.

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