Cameras to be allowed inside Phoenix Sinclair inquiry
Published Thursday, July 12, 2012 9:42AM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 3:01PM CST
A commissioner has ruled cameras will be allowed inside the upcoming inquiry into the death of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair in 2005.
The decision was handed down Thursday.
“A public inquiry is meant to educate and inform the public and it follows that permitting broadcasting of the inquiry proceedings would serve to fulfill that aspect of the inquiry’s mandate,” said Inquiry Commissioner Ted Hughes in his written decision.
Hughes also rejected a request from the social workers union, the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, for a publication ban on the identities of the workers. Media outlets had fought against the ban.
Hughes said evidence produced by union did not show that publication of workers’ names or images would “subject them to greater personal safety risk than if they were to remain anonymous.”
Sinclair spent much of her short life in foster care, before being returned to her mother Samantha Kematch in 2004. The girl suffered regular abuse by Kematch and her boyfriend Karl McKay. Phoenix died when she was five years old after a vicious assault in June 2005 in the basement of the family's home on the Fisher River reserve, north of Winnipeg.
McKay and Kematch were later convicted of first-degree murder.
Sinclair’s loved ones said they were pleased with the commissioner’s view on the role of the inquiry Thursday.
“It’s a good day,” said Kim Edwards, who helped raise Phoenix.
Commissioner Hughes said that the inquiry needed to be open.
"The public will be educated about a system which is often shrouded in secrecy. Central to this inquiry is the question of why a young child was dead for nine months before authorities ... became aware. Exactly who played a role in Phoenix's life, through the provision of child-welfare services and otherwise, is not a trivial part of Phoenix's story,” wrote Hughes.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs issued a statement, following the release of the commissioner's decision.
“We are pleased that Commissioner Hughes has not agreed with the MGEU and other’s request for this process to be closed. He has been consistent with the Government of Manitoba’s reason to call a public inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair – as all Manitobans have a right to know what happens in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
The MGEU said it will not be appealing the decision to allow the names and faces of social workers to be made public at the upcoming Sinclair inquiry.
The MGEU had previously argued a ban was necessary to protect social workers and children. About 18 to 20 people who may be called to testify at the inquiry are still front-line workers.
“They will tell the truth but as we indicated in front of the commissioner, human beings are human beings and depending on how they are portrayed in the media, there may well be an effect on the inquiry - we can't control that," said Garth Smorang, MGEU lawyer.
Hughes said a publication ban will apply to seven people who called child-welfare offices with concerns about Phoenix prior to her death.
The inquiry is set to begin on Sept. 5.
- with a report from CTV's Stacey Ashley and files from The Canadian Press