Child and Family Services lost track of Phoenix Sinclair: Inquiry

Phoenix Sinclair was abused and murdered at age five by her mother, Samantha Kematch and Kematch's...

Phoenix Sinclair was abused and murdered at age five by her mother, Samantha Kematch and Kematch's boyfriend, Karl McKay, at their Fisher River First Nation home in June 2005, a few months after she was returned to Kematch's care and her CFS file closed. Her death went undiscovered for nine months. (HANDOUT)

James Turner, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:58 PM ET

A Manitoba welfare worker's confusion and concern about Phoenix Sinclair's well-being and who was caring for her in spring 2004 set in prompted her to call in a complaint asking Child and Family Services to figure it out.

But her own confusion appears to have been also shared by CFS, setting in motion what appears to be an internal scramble to try and figure out where Phoenix was and who she was staying with.

An inquiry into Phoenix's death has heard the little girl was last on the radar of Winnipeg CFS in mid-February 2004 when Winnipeg CFS reached an informal arrangement placing her in the care of her former foster parents.

The agency believed at the time she would be at risk if left in the care of either of her mom, Samantha Kematch or father Steve Sinclair.

But by mid-May, alarm bells went off at the Manitoba Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) office after Kematch claimed to have been caring for Phoenix since November but was receiving contradictory information from Sinclair. The welfare worker — who can't be identified due to a publication ban — says she sought out clarification from CFS but couldn't seem to get any.

"Sorry to keep bugging you but other people from the agency are really confusing me," the former EIA worker wrote in a May 12, 2004 email to Lisa Conlin, the CFS worker who last dealt with Phoenix's case. "They state that that files say nothing about the child not being allowed to stay with mother Samantha Kematch but I do believe you told me that the child is to not to be in the mother's care."

The next day, then-Winnipeg CFS intake supervisor Andrew Orobko set about making a number of calls in an effort to track the little girl down and came to conclude Kematch – and not Sinclair — appeared to be the CFS client.

The agency had long stated serious concern about Kematch's ability to parent given her troubled background and apparent instability.

An internal review report written after Phoenix's murder was uncovered in 2006 states the EIA worker asked CFS to conduct an assessment to determine if Phoenix was safe being with Kematch.

The internal "safety assessment" issued said the agency should follow up within 48 hours of talking with Kematch on May 11, 2004, according to the review.

That same review states although the file was flagged as "high risk" the agency didn't "make face to face contact with (Kematch) until July 13, 2004."

Testimony continues this afternoon.


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