System failed to protect Phoenix Sinclair from killer mom and boyfriend: Inquiry

A picture of murder victim Phoenix Sinclair. (Handout)

A picture of murder victim Phoenix Sinclair. (Handout)

Joyanne Pursaga, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:19 PM ET

WINNIPEG — A public inquiry found Manitoba’s child welfare system failed to act on obvious warnings that could have saved Phoenix Sinclair, 5, from her killer mother and her boyfriend — and a daunting workload is no excuse.

The inquiry’s final report into Phoenix’s murder calls for a sweeping overhaul of the province’s child welfare system to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

The lengthy $14-million inquiry focused on how Child and Family Services handled Phoenix’s case. Despite being taken into care twice, as a newborn and at the age of three, Phoenix wound up in the care of her mother Samantha Kematch and her boyfriend Karl Wesley McKay. The couple beat and killed Phoenix in June 2005 on the Fisher River reserve and then buried her near a dump, but her death wasn’t discovered until March 2006.

Kematch and McKay were convicted of first-degree murder in 2008.

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross apologized Friday for the system’s failures.

“The system isn’t perfect. The system broke down and a child was murdered,” she said.

The province vowed to “immediately act” on all of the report’s 62 recommendations. Yet when pressed, Irvin-Ross wouldn’t commit to some changes, including accountability measures and a professional act for social workers. Those items are still being analyzed, she said.


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