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Province reviewing CFS contact leading up to Carman killings, families minister says

Manitoba’s families minister says the province is reviewing all Child and Family Services contact leading up to the killings of five people in southern Manitoba last month. 

Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine said during question period she aims to have a report on the matter by the end of next month. Ryan Howard Manoakeesick, 29, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old partner, her relative and their three young children. 

The mother of one of the victims previously told CBC News CFS placed her daughter, Myah Gratton, 17, in the home with Manoakeesick and his common-law partner, Amanda Clearwater. She also said she warned authorities her daughter wasn’t safe living in the same household as the man now accused of killing her.

“I immediately directed the department to work with a General Authority to review all CFS contact leading up to the tragedy in Carman,” Fontaine said during question period Wednesday, “I’m expecting or hoping to get that report by the end of April.” 

Fontaine also noted Premier Wab Kinew attended the vigil and funeral for the victims in Carman. She also urged all the members in the Manitoba Legislature to come together in their grief in the wake of the tragedy. 

‘Status quo in CFS is not working,’ premier says

Following question period Wednesday, the premier said the provincial government can’t comment on specific cases in the child welfare system.

Kinew also said he’s open to a public inquiry in light “of recent tragic events in Manitoba,” but said whenever an inquiry is considered the government has to see “investigations by law enforcement reach their conclusion and then the administration of justice.” 

“If we get to the point — where even after verdicts are delivered and decisions are rendered — that we have questions about systemic failures, the system failing kids, then we will move ahead with an inquiry,” Kinew said. 

Kinew also told reporters the child welfare system is failing kids in care.

“I think everyone knows that the status quo in CFS is not working in Manitoba. It’s not working for Indigenous kids. It’s not working for people from all backgrounds. So we gotta do better,” he said.

“Let’s govern in such a way that we’re not going to have to come back here in 20 years and apologize to this generation of kids.”

Sherry Gott, Manitoba’s advocate for children and youth, told CBC News earlier Wednesday the government needs to invest more resources for youth in care and create more placements for at-risk youth.

“I’ve been calling the government to develop a harm reduction strategy that supports children and youth that are suffering from addiction,” she said.

“The more resources that are provided for vulnerable children and youth the better.”

Emergency debate denied 

Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux wanted unanimous support for an emergency debate on children in CFS care, but her request was denied after question period Wednesday. 

A middle-aged woman is shown looking forward. She's wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt.
Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux wanted unanimous support for an emergency debate on children in CFS care, but her request was denied during question period Wednesday. (Randall Mckenzie/CBC)

Lamoureux expressed disappointment afterwards. She also said she’s curious to see what’s in the report from Fontaine’s department and called it “an appropriate step.” 

“That would have been an opportunity this afternoon in the house if leave had been allowed,” she said. “We can be having the conversations about what do we do to ensure children are in fact in safe homes, that they are being taken care of.”

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