Truth and Reconciliation Hero Embroiled in Abuse Scandal

By Marty Gold



Justice Murray Sinclair, Author of Truth and Reconciliation Report, Embroiled in Controversyjustice-murray-sinclair-delivers-the-report-of-the-truth-and.jpeg 


The Native Women's Transition Centre Inc. is a longtime non-profit organization that operates 3 facilities for women in Winnipeg, including second-stage housing in the Lord Selkirk area and a halfway house for federal parolees in the west end.  Although the website has barely been updated since 2011, their flagship, namesake facility

 is still described :

"Our Centre embraces Aboriginal traditional values and cultures in order to heal the generational scars of colonialism and residential schools. Aboriginal healing methods are used to help women and their children achieve stability and initiate the process of healing.

...  During their residency, women are encouraged to return to their cultural roots to meet life’s challenges, build on personal gifts and strengths and grow and learn together as women – reclaiming their rightful place in the community." 


One year ago today, a brave group of 11 women in the residence program wrote an extensive letter to the Board of Directors of NWTC , with itemized complaints from 5  of them, accompanied by a separately submitted complaint.

The women were urgently pleading for help with the Executive Director, who had been chair of that Board immediately before assuming her new role months before.

The residents, struggling to rebuild their lives and move on to raise their families, said they were threatened and intimidated, with grown women being treated like children.

NWTC group complaint preamble snip

Enrolled in the NWTC program to recover from family violence, addictions and systematic abuse, the group referred to "unfair and aggressive treatment", warning "we no longer feel this is a safe supportive environment".

"We feel the new ED is aggressive in her style with bullying tactics and verbal abuseShe has belittled us as women, mothers and parents.. are extremely controlled and made to feel as children.. we feel we have no rights and no say in anything (and) face strict consequences if we speak up."

After 3 pages detailing specific incidents, they made clear

 “We are taking a chance on writing this letter due to the consequences that Katherine holds against us for speaking out…"

NWTC mission statement



They re-iterated the Mission Statement and continued “NWTC is not living up to this and something needs to be done."

The residents requested a review of their complaints and offered to meet with the Board personally.

The women described experiences that were startlingly contrary to promises made by the non profit about client rights. The website stated the "service philosophy" that it bragged was endorsed by Amnesty International:

NWTC clients rights 

"If nothing is done about this we will be forced to leave Native Women's. We feel the ED shows no empathy or compassion towards our situation."

To show the faith the clients had in the Board of Directors, their letter was also cc'd to the Executive Director.

The Executive Director is Katherine Morrisseau Sinclair.

She is not some longtime social services minion who had risen from obscurity to helm the organization, but the wife of Associate Chief Justice of Manitoba, and Truth and Reconciliation Report author, Justice Murray Sinclair.


NWTC complaint 1 grounding snip   

A mother who had arranged to leave to shop for baby items but have her chores covered one day, she told in a  separate, signed complaint submitted. 

"Katherine was yelling at me in front of residents kid and staff" and tried to stop her. When the mother returned she saw she was 'circled' (grounded). 

"She started raising her voice at me and making her finger tap on her desk aggressively so I told her, she doesn't have a right to yell at me and no need to do that. So she told me I wasn't responsible." and the mother replied:

"So getting and buying baby stuff wasn't responsible?"

That complaint was mild, when compared to the next 5 contained in the groups' letter.


NWTC group letter complaint 1 snip

  • #1: Said they were treated like "we are back in jail", kept away from their families at Christmastime, were unfairly restricted to cel phone access of only 2 hours a day, with "talking down to the residents",  noting "the children are starting to feel it and that's not good."  

NWTC group letter complaint 2 snip

#2:  Asking for an extension on the curfew, "She called me a BULLSHITTER and said my 28 days of sobriety was nothing and she thinks this isn't the place for me. I felt really hurt and discouraged by her words"

NWTC group letter complaint 3 snip 

 #3: "Katherine told me I wasn't doing the programs here at NWTC, but there isn't any at all because of the holidays. NO ONE has programs. She made me feel so awful about myself that I just wanted to give up" {and went AWOL}. When the returned returned, and after accepting being grounded by her case manager, "Katherine called me in with (the case manager and) made me feel like I wanted to give up as she belittled me in front of (her)"

NWTC group letter complaint 4 snip 

#4 Told of her brother passing away right before the holidays and  after having to finish her Christmas shopping late in the afternoon last Christmas Eve,  was 20 minutes late and doesn’t have a cel phone to call the centre and explain why.  

“I was in the kitchen trying to cook something for myself and my children. But then Katherine came in there and started to interrogate me. ... I told Kathrine “I was a good mother” and Katherine told me “if you were a good mother then your kids wouldn’t be in foster homes or wouldn't be with CFS.

And then she told me I would never get my kids back from CFS.”

"I was in an abusive relationship... I didn't think I was going to be walking into something so similar to what I was in."

NWTC group letter complaint 5 snip

#5 described an argument that started over disapproval of the way the client was baking cookies.

The woman was moved to tears because of Sinclair's tone and "the expression on her face was like I was disgusting and she didn't like me".



A month passed by, without any response from the NWTC Board of Directors.  

On January 26th 2015, 4 of the group again wrote, wondering how the ED was sitting in on meetings with counselors and case managers potentially breaching their right to privacy: 

NWTC group follow up letter first half 

“We just want to know if anyone cares about what we have to say or how we feel? ...We came here voluntarily to get support and build up our self esteem... Lately we have all been feeling scared, intimidated, and controlled by Katherine."

But the residents went even further, relaying to the Board the firing of loving, concerned staff "for speaking the truth".  

If they are forced to leave, the women pointedly said, it is because The Board "failed, failed to listen to us.  We did not lie in the first letter, everything in it true" they beseached, invoking a disturbing comparison to historic mistreatment of aboriginals.

NWTC group followup conclusion res school


"This is not residential school all over again"


Accompanying the January letter from the group, were two more individual complaint being sent to the Board.

In one, a woman complained that at the Christmas Party, she berated in front of friends, all the staff and families for using her cel phone; making her feel "abused and controlled" as in her past.

NWTC res complaint xmas party first snip

The client alleged "she followed me and made a scene" and was confronted by:

"You're not going to fucking get away with things around here", while she was holding a baby in her arms and we were around lots of children."

NWTC jan 26 15 complaint second half snip

“… (Katherine's) actions were uncalled for and unprofessional for the ED … her rules are taking it to the extreme.  This isn't a treatment centre, it’s a transition centre.”


The final complaint submitted was dated January 20th, 2015 and alleged a mother and her 2 year old were woken up one night to be interrogated by Sinclair who was on a hunt for the ringleaders of the challenge to her rule:

Then she started bugging me about the letter the residents wrote to the board members the first time.
Who wrote the letter? It was YYYYY (case manager) wasn't it?... I know you girls didn’t write it yourselves (pretty much calling us dumb”) She also mentioned (2) other staff members".
 NWTC Jan 15 mrs judge res complaint page 1
“NO, none of the staff had anything to do with it… she asked me why I signed it.  Then she said 
“well that letter is bullshit, their lying … I know you know who wrote it , who made you sign it” .... 
“I said I didn’t know (and Sinclair said) “Thanks anyways, I’m going to get to the bottom of this.
" she had no other to come wake me up for questioning. I felt like she was picking on me and made me feel intimidated. I had a hard time putting my kids back to sleep...”
Finally, in a brief paragraph on the second page, she related an earlier, troubling encounter with Katherine Sinclair:
NWTC jan 15 complaint mrs judge snip
She was asking me who my lawyers were so she can get checked out by her husband who is a judge.
"She was asking when my court was and everything was. I felt like she was trying to make a conflict or something."

Showing 4 reactions

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  • commented 2016-09-27 01:09:58 -0600
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  • commented 2016-01-11 10:04:40 -0700
    I’m also curious whether this story has some continuation. It doesn’t look like it can be forgotten.
    Colonialism and residential schools did leave specific scars on women of that generation and the aim to heal them is quite noble. In my nursing practice I encountered such people and it was extremely hard to deal with them. I would probably complete an article for on this matter for students understand better what they might deal with.
  • commented 2016-01-03 21:09:57 -0700
    Very interesting piece. Is there any follow up on this since their letter in early 2015? Has anyone questioned Justice Sinclair or his wife regarding this?
  • followed this page 2016-01-03 15:20:46 -0700


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