Phoenix Sinclair inquiry to finally resume

Murder victim Phoenix Sinclair. (File Photo)

Murder victim Phoenix Sinclair. (File Photo)

James Turner, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 PM ET

WINNIPEG - The public inquiry into the involvement of Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) during Phoenix Sinclair's short life prior to her brutal murder is set to resume this week following a more than two-month-long delay triggered by a court battle sparked by CFS officials over documents.

Wednesday, inquiry commissioner Ted Hughes is slated to hear further testimony from Andrew Orobko, a former unit supervisor at Winnipeg CFS, the now-defunct agency which handled Phoenix's case.

Orobko testified in early September about the "staggering" workload and other challenges social workers at the now-defunct agency faced about the year 2000 -- the time of Phoenix's birth -- as well as his personal dealings with her mother, Samantha Keematch.

Orobko testified about working with families in the city's North End, where poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to medical care and the prevalence of family violence, gangs, drugs and the sex trade formed the backdrop of cases he and the six social workers he supervised dealt with.

"We waded into families with the most chronic and the most complex need and risk, and that was our workload," Orobko said, later telling inquiry lawyer Sherri Walsh he felt he never got a satisfactory response when raising workload concerns with his superiors.

"We were being asked to deliver child welfare service in probably the most daunting community in this country and with human resources that were grossly sufficient to meet the needs of that community," Orobko said.

The inquiry was put on hold Sept. 7 after the provincial appeals court agreed to hear a case against Hughes put forward by four CFS authorities in their quest to get verbatim transcripts of all internal pre-interviews commission lawyers did with prospective witnesses.

The court ruled the commission was not obligated to disclose the estimated 12,000 pages of material.

The inquiry's first phase is examining the services Phoenix did or didn't receive from CFS, other circumstances directly related to her 2005 murder at Keematch's home on the Fisher River First Nation and why it went undiscovered for months. She was not in care when she died.

Phoenix's mother, Samantha Keematch, and her boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder in Sinclair's killing.

Inquiry hearings are being held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre and are open to the public.

james.turner@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @heyjturner


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