“I hear you when you say your family’s broken … what this has done to you.“ — Commissioner Ted Hughes
There was absolutely no need for the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry staff to put Karl McKay’s sons on the witness stand today.
And even having his ex-wife (a McKay domestic-abuse survivor) testifying today was questionable, save for the fact she says she notified Chid and Family Services of potential abuse to Phoenix long before the McKay-Kematch house of cards coming down on top of them in March 2006.
For the inquiry’s sake, she needed to be questioned on this point. That’s fair game.
But the fact there were few cross-examination questions for the McKay “boys” from non-inquiry lawyers [In fact not a single query for child the elder] is telling.
This is just my respectful opinion: There was virtually nothing McKay’s sons had to offer this inquiry which couldn’t have been tendered through affidavit evidence, sparing them the stress of reliving in public the horror they’ve experienced and already testified to in court in 2008.
This became clear to me pretty quickly. These are two now-young adult men who’ve been rocked to the core by what they’ve been forced to live through, through no fault of their own.
And the one likely the most directly affected, McKay son the younger — the eyewitness to a lot of the horror Phoenix went through in a supposedly “tight-knit” Fisher River community which apparently failed to notice she was even around — was clearly terrified by the prospect of being pilloried in the public eye for not speaking up sooner about what he saw than he did.
“Can I make a statement,” the 20-year-old asked at the conclusion of his hour-long direct examination by commission counsel.
Yes, said Commissioner Hughes. The young man had a message for the media in the room — of which there was more than has been usual.
Can I ask you reporters – don’t try to make me sound like the baddest guy on earth?
I read the paper, you guys make it sound bad – you guys make it sound horrible. I couldn’t help it, man.
That’s like the only thing I ask — just don’t make it sound like I’m really bad and terrible, Because I already feel bad. Now that I’m older I feel, like, so terrible and it’s bad enough that you guys are bringing this all back to me and I got all these little memories flashing in my head.
I just want to forget all that.
And without a doubt, we should be doing everything we can to help these young men get past this. Commissioner Hughes even graciously pledged to McKay’s ex to help as much as he could.
What child the younger witnessed basically ruined his life, he said.
“Where do I start?,” he asked when lead commission lawyer Sherri Walsh queried how the Phoenix incident has affected him:
“I’m a pretty fucked up person now. … used to be a good kid … all of it’s gone like that (he snaps his fingers a few times).” He said he turned to drugs, booze and crime to “block out what I seen.” “(I’m) trying to get my life back together,” he told Hughes. “(It) made me a terrible person,” he said.
His brother’s no different: “I think it made me more like my dad, because I get — when I rage, I can do some damage,” he said.
They were just kids when Phoenix died. Not paid social-work professionals or community vanguards.
Mere children who came from not very much and now saddled forever with the burden of what their odious father did.
The younger son won’t even call him his father, saying he prefers “Wesley” or “Karl.”
If there was one thing their testimony did accomplish, it was to further cement for commissioner Hughes the culture of fear they, and others in their positions, lived in.
- Fear of Karl McKay, their violent and vengeful father (their dad) — and what he might do if they ratted on him.
- Fear of the child-welfare system [both boys were apparently scared when Intertribal CFS workers turned up to ‘rescue’ them in July 2005]
- Fear of the media and public scorn — of being cast as villains in this horrific tale.
It’s been many torturous weeks since Rohan Stephenson testified at this now-$10-million inquiry.
But it was his words that really gave the most insight into what the major problem was when it comes to considering Phoenix’s case.
“So I was a liar, and (CFS) were incompetent and 15,000 other circumstances all came together and now Phoenix is dead,” he said Dec. 6.
The more I reflect on this, the more simple dissecting Phoenix’s pathetic voyage through ‘the system’ becomes. It really boils down to this:
CFS can’t do its job if people won’t come forward with information, for whatever reasons — including their fear of ‘the system.’
At the same time, when CFS was given information about Phoenix, it failed to rate much attention or urgency until it was too late.
Putting McKay’s sons on the stand today, in my humble opinion, takes us really no further in solving this dichotomy.
We knew all along what they had to say, and by now, we probably instinctively know what it is we’re really confronting here.
We’re no further along today as a result of McKay’s sons’ testimony.