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'No one listened': Mother of teen slain in Carman says CFS ignored her safety concerns

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The grieving mother of a teen who was among a family killed in Carman, Man., over the weekend is demanding answers – saying her daughter was placed in the home where she died by Winnipeg Child and Family Services despite warnings that it wasn't safe.

Juliette Hastings looks through photos of her oldest daughter Myah-Lee Gratton – a 17-year-old girl who she said had a passion for life.

Juliette Hastings (right) with her oldest daughter Myah-Lee Gratton (left) in an undated photo. Myah-Lee was among five victims killed in Carman, Man. on Feb. 11, 2024. (Submitted)

"Myah, she could do anything and her heart was so pure and so big," Hastings said in an interview with CTV News, adding Myah loved her four younger siblings. "I always called her a butterfly. She was very colourful, always wanting to be around people. Have fun. Make people smile."

Myah-Lee was one of five people killed in Carman, Man., on Sunday. CTV News has confirmed the four other victims include 30-year-old Amanda Clearwater and her three children: six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven, and two-and-a-half-month-old Isabella.

Clearwater's common-law partner Ryan Manoakeesick, who had been living in the home at the time, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder. The charges have not been tested in court.

'No one listened': mother says accused had history of violent episodes

"It could have been all avoided – and that's what gets me. No one listened. No one listened," Hastings said.

She said about 10 months ago, Winnipeg CFS placed her daughter in the home with Manoakeesick and Clearwater. Though not related by blood, Myah-Lee called her Aunty Mandy.

Myah-Lee Gratton is pictured in an undated image. She was among the five victims killed in Carman, Man. on Feb. 11, 2024. (Submitted)

Hastings said Myah-Lee had requested CFS put her in the Carman home following an argument with her in April 2023.

"CFS gave in to Myah, and I said, 'This is wrong,'" Hastings said, adding she told her CFS worker multiple times she feared the home was not safe.

"They just rejected everything I said and they ignored it and just let it be," she said.

Hastings said Manoakeesick had been struggling with mental health issues resulting in violent episodes.

"He would throw things, he would yell, he would punch the walls. He's hurt members in the family there," Hastings said, saying she lived with Clearwater for a short time and was concerned about Manoakeesick's behaviour which she described as “scary.”

"He was not himself. He was odd. He was short-tempered, and he was talking about aliens and stars – just odd things," she said.

On more than one occasion, Hastings said police were called to the home due to Manoakeesick's episodes. Manitoba RCMP would not confirm if officers had been called to the home prior to the killings on Sunday, saying that forms part of the ongoing investigation.

Manoakeesick was previously charged in 2021 with two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. In 2019, he pled guilty to a charge of mischief following a break-in while under the influence of meth.

He told the court at the time that he was seeking mental health care.

'You didn't listen to me now, and my baby is dead'

Though she relayed her fears to CFS throughout the ten months her daughter was staying with the couple, Hastings said she felt her concerns fell on deaf ears.

"You didn't listen to me now, and my baby is dead," she said.

Myah-Lee Gratton is pictured in an undated image. She was among the five victims killed in Carman, Man. on Feb. 11, 2024. (Submitted)

CTV News reached out to the Winnipeg Child and Family Services agency which deferred any comment to Manitoba's provincial communications team.

A provincial spokesperson responded to CTV News with a statement.

"As a matter of practice, the department does not comment on any interactions within CFS and it would be very inappropriate to comment on anything in the middle of a multiple murder investigation," the statement reads.

They would not confirm if any action was taken by CFS to address Hastings' concerns, or if there had been any prior issues reported to CFS regarding Manoakeesick during Myah-Lee’s time in the home.

Families minister says province has 'robust' licensing requirements for CFS placements

Manitoba Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine said in an interview with CTV News that she isn't able to speak to specifics in the case, but said generally any death of a child in CFS care will prompt a review by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY).

"There is a robust licensing regime in Manitoba for foster homes or for placements of children," Fontaine said. "Once the investigation and, of course, reviews will come out, certainly our government is more than prepared to look at whether or not those reviews say that there needs to be even more stringent criteria or requirements for foster care placements."

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for MACY said it reviews any death of a child to determine if it falls under the scope of the advocate's legislated services.

Sherry Gott, the Manitoba Advocate with MACY, said the province needs to do more.

"We need government action, to act immediately to ensure that we don't lose more children, young lives," Gott said in an interview Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Fontaine said it will take time, and there is no easy solution to end partner violence.

"Our government is working hard every day to tackle intimate partner violence and all gender-based violence. The recommendations in the MACY report on intimate partner violence are informing our government's strategy as we work to protect vulnerable Manitobans."

Manitoba Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine is pictured during an interview with CTV News on Feb. 13, 2024. (Source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg)

Fontaine said the death of any child in Manitoba concerns her, and said the government will do everything it can to support protecting women and children.

Hastings said she is getting a lawyer to help her search for answers as to why actions weren't taken earlier that she believes could have saved her daughter's life.

"I just got this pounding in my head and this rage in my chest, and it's choking me out, saying, 'Julie, you need to do more. This is not right. This is not right.'" 

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