06/11/2012 08:10 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Phoenix Sinclair Death: Darlene MacDonmald, Manitoba Children's Advocate, Urged To Resign


WINNIPEG - Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard is demanding the resignation of Manitoba's children's advocate.

Gerrard told the legislature Monday it's "unacceptable" that Darlene MacDonald doesn't support the accountability that would come from an inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair.

Last week, MacDonald told the Winnipeg Free Press she doubts the value of an inquiry into the 2005 death of the five-year-old at the hands of her mother and stepfather.

It took more than nine months for officials to realize the toddler was missing despite the fact she had been in Child and Family Services care and only recently returned to her family.

MacDonald said she is concerned about the estimated $4.7 million the inquiry will cost and said the money would be better spent on improved resources for families and children.

She said there have already been several reports into the girl's death that have already produced more than 200 recommendations for improvements to the child welfare system.

On Monday, Gerrard called on Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard to demand MacDonald's resignation "and bring in a child advocate who advocates on behalf of the children instead of advocating on behalf of the Child and Family Services authorities."

Howard said MacDonald is answerable to the entire legislature and not just her office.

"She's an independent officer of the legislature," Howard said. "He (Gerrard) was on the committee that appointed her as the Children's Advocate. And I do not believe that we fire people simply because we do not agree with them."

The public inquiry, headed by retired judge Ted Hughes, is scheduled to begin hearing testimony in September.

Phoenix spent most of her short life in foster care before being handed back to her mother. She died after being tortured, confined and assaulted inside the family's home on the Fisher River reserve.

Her mother, Samantha Kematch, and Kematch's boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted of first-degree murder and are serving life sentences.

(Winnipeg Free Press)

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