Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Social Workers Lose Bid for Anonymity at Inquiry into Girl's Death

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Social Workers Lose Bid for Anonymity at Inquiry into Girl's Death

Article excerpt

Social workers to be named at dead girl inquiry

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WINNIPEG - Dozens of Manitoba social workers who dealt with a young girl who died of abuse and neglect will not be anonymous when they testify at a public inquiry into her death.

Inquiry commissioner Ted Hughes rejected a request Thursday from the social workers union for a publication ban on the identities of the workers. The union had argued that having the workers named could expose them to harassment and could make it harder for child welfare to retain and attract employees.

"The evidence adduced by the applicants ... does not show that publication of names or images of social workers in the media 1) will subject them to greater personal safety risk than if they were to remain anonymous; or 2) will cause a serious risk to the child-welfare system," Hughes said in a written decision.

"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."

The ruling was welcomed by Jeff Gindin, the lawyer for Phoenix Sinclair's biological father and foster mother.

"In my view, the public's right to know is far more important than (the social workers') inconvenience or embarrassment," Gindin told reporters outside Thursday's hearing.

The inquiry is to start in September and some identities will be protected. Hughes ruled Thursday that a publication ban will apply to seven people who called child-welfare offices with concerns about Phoenix over the years.

A publication ban on people who report potential abuse or neglect is standard, said Sherri Walsh, the lawyer leading the inquiry.

"The legislation grants them anonymity as a matter of policy, so that people are not afraid to phone in a concern about a child in need of protection, for fear of recrimination," she said. …

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