|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)
WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg Child and Family Services (CFS) social worker adamant her case work on Phoenix Sinclair’s file was altered after the fact without her knowledge says her coming forward has resulted in blowback at work.
“I have had a feeling of being isolated and avoided,” Debbie De Gale testified Tuesday.
De Gale has told the public inquiry into Phoenix’s death the safety assessment she conducted on May 11, 2004, was downgraded by her supervisor without any discussion.
At the time, De Gale had learned Phoenix was being cared for by her mother, Samantha Kematch, whom child welfare workers had long deemed a risk to the girl.
De Gale continued Tuesday to maintain she recommended child and family services investigate Phoenix’s situation within 24 hours as it was “high risk” but that her case report was changed to reflect a response time of 48 hours.
The signed intake report she authored is also missing other information which she included to her reach her “high risk” safety conclusion, said De Gale.
Commissioner Ted Hughes cut short questions to De Gale about how she’s being treated at work after a lawyer for the provincial family services department objected.
Prior to that, De Gale agreed with lawyer Jeff Gindin that it wasn’t an easy decision for her to come forward with what she knows and admitted it’s possible she will face repercussions at work.
The inquiry is examining the role CFS played in Phoenix’s fleeting life, which ended on a cold basement floor of a Fisher River First Nation home in June 2005 when she was just five. Kematch and her boyfriend Karl McKay repeatedly beat the girl before burying her body in a shallow grave near the town dump.
De Gale filed a sworn statement with the Manitoba Court of Appeal in September warning she faced backlash at work as the court mulled the possible release of thousands of pages of pre-interview transcripts conducted by commission counsel in preparation for the inquiry.
De Gale fought to keep her transcript confidential. Confidentiality was promised to her by commission lawyers when she came in to do the pre-interview.
“I fear what will happen to me,” De Gale said in the document.
“I believe that certain co-workers and management from CFS will be upset with me and may react negatively to me, based on what I shared becoming public.”
The inquiry continues Tuesday afternoon.