Documents obtained under Freedom of Information suggest the Nova Scotia government violated its own rules surrounding a CBC request about safety in daycares.
The request for information sat in the queue for months, awaiting an official response from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The department reneged on a commitment to respond by mid-August.
In the end, a package of information landed in the reporter’s inbox two hours after a government release announcing significant changes in policy. Those changes were in response to a review of background checks.
It turns out, the review was prompted by the original request by CBC News.
That day, Aug. 28, the department suddenly announced new regulations to give the minister authority to bar staff members from working if they do not have up-to-date child abuse registry and criminal background checks in place.
The province told the media hundreds of daycare workers had violated requirements for initial or renewed background checks over two years.
'We will know then if the minister is OK to release the FOIPOP." - Internal email
“I could not believe it. I thought this number is staggering,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey said at the time.
We were curious what prompted the sudden change in policy. So we filed another request under the FOIPOP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) Act to see how our original questions were handled.
Information provided to CBC News suggests the department was not aware of the problem before our request.
“Now that we have the report, we see that there is valuable information,” reads an internal email, dated Aug. 12. Emails with advice and recommendations were redacted from the document.
By Aug. 18, the department was drafting a memo to daycares “that will advise them of the top violations and the requirement for compliance.”
The FOIPOP managers scheduled a briefing with the minister for Aug. 20.
“We will know then if the minister is OK to release the FOIPOP,” reads an email.
On Aug. 22, the FOIPOP administrator for education and early childhood development asked, internally, that the department of community services extend the response date. This delay wasn’t communicated to the reporter.
On Aug. 27 the associate deputy minister of Community Services wrote that she was finally ready to send the package “by the end of day.”
The actual documents were emailed to CBC News on Aug. 28 at 11:20 a.m. — two hours after a media release announced legislative changes.
What the minister didn’t volunteer in her news conference or release was that workers at two daycare centres had failed to report suspected child abuse in the two years surveyed.
That information was contained in the documents provided to CBC News.
Casey is now reviewing the rules to make sure the failure to report violations doesn't happen again.
"It's alarming. It is unacceptable and it's troubling, no question," she told CBC at the time.