Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a public inquiry?
- What is an Order in Council?
- Who heads the inquiry?
- Who are "Commission Counsel" and what is their role?
- Who participates in the Inquiry?
- Who has standing in the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry?
- What is the purpose of the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry?
- Who will testify at the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry?
- Are the proceedings open to the public?
- How long will the inquiry take?
- Will the Commissioner's final report be made public?
Governments establish public inquiries to investigate and report on matters of substantial public interest related to the good governance or the public business within a jurisdiction. The mandate of each inquiry is set out in its terms of reference and/or the Order in Council which establishes the Commission.
A Commission of inquiry is established and paid for by government; however, it is an independent body.
A public inquiry is not a trial. The Commission performs its duties without expressing conclusions about civil or criminal liability of any person or organization.
Commissions of inquiry hear evidence by way of a public hearing. The hearing functions in much the same way as a court of law, although not all of the same rules apply. Like a judge, the Commissioner presides over the proceedings and hears sworn testimony from witnesses who have been called to testify by Commission Counsel. Parties with standing are allowed to cross examine the witnesses and the public is allowed to attend the hearing.
An Order in Council is a formal, legal document setting out a decision that is made by Cabinet and approved by the Lieutenant Governor. Once signed by the Lieutenant Governor, it becomes a public document.
"Council" means the ministers of the government who make up the Executive Council of Manitoba — more commonly known as "Cabinet".
The Lieutenant Governor is the official appointed to be the Queen's representative in Manitoba.
The phrase "Lieutenant Governor in Council" means the Lieutenant Governor acting "by and with the advice of" Cabinet.
The Lieutenant Governor in Council appoints a Commissioner to head a public inquiry. The Commissioner is responsible for reporting findings and making recommendations relating to the administration of justice in the province. The Commissioner has the power to summon witnesses, require them to give evidence, and require them to produce documents.
The Honourable Edward (Ted) N. Hughes, O.C., Q.C., LL.D (Hon), is the Commissioner of the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry.
Ms. Sherri Walsh is Commission Counsel for this Inquiry and is assisted by Mr. Derek Olson, Ms. Kathleen McCandless, Ms. Elizabeth McCandless and Mr. Noah Globerman.
Commission counsel refers to a lawyer appointed by the Commissioner and retained by the Government of Manitoba to act as Commission counsel and includes any counsel appointed by Commission Counsel with the approval of the Commissioner. The role of Commission counsel is to represent the public interest. Commission counsel does not represent any particular interest or point of view and, unlike in a trial, this role is neither adversarial nor partisan.
Commission Counsel plays a key role in locating, organizing and preparing the presentation of evidence. Commission Counsel is responsible for bringing all relevant evidence to the attention of the Commissioner and, through the public hearing process, to the public at large.
Parties and intervenors with standing are allowed to participate in the public hearing process and are entitled to other procedural rights as outlined in the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure. To have “party standing” means that the party has demonstrated to the Commissioner a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the Inquiry. To have “intervenor standing” means that the intervenor has satisfied the Commissioner of a genuine and demonstrated concern about the issues raised in the Inquiry mandate and has a particular perspective or expertise that may assist the Commissioner.
The list of parties and intervenors that received standing at hearing on June 29, 2011 is available on the Parties and Intervenors page of this website.
The Commission’s mandate is to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of Phoenix Sinclair and in particular to inquire into:
the child-welfare services provided or not provided to Phoenix Sinclair and her family under the Child and Family Services Act;
any other circumstances, apart from the delivery of child-welfare services, directly related to the death of Phoenix Sinclair; and
why the death remained undiscovered for several months.
The Commissioner is to conduct his duties without expressing any conclusions or recommendations regarding the civil or criminal responsibility of any person or organization.
Commission Counsel determines who will be called to testify at the inquiry. It is Commission Counsel's responsibility to ensure that all evidence that bears on the public interest is brought to the Commissioner's attention.
Yes, the Commission is committed to a process of public hearings. Members of the media and the general public are welcome to attend the proceedings. A schedule of dates and locations of the hearings will be posted to the Commission website.
The Commissioner heard and ruled on applications for standing on June 28 and 29, 2011. Dates for the hearings have not yet been set. Once the public hearings conclude, the Commissioner will prepare his final report and deliver it to the Attorney General.
The Commissioner is responsible for delivering the final report to the Attorney General by March 30, 2012. It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to release the report to the public.