Ontario's acting chief coroner has ordered a review of all drowning deaths in the province since May following the death of a 2½-year-old-boy in a backyard swimming pool in the Ottawa region.
Dr. Bert Lauwers said the review will identify common factors that have played a role in drowning deaths across the province. The results of the review will be released later this year, he said.
Since May 1, 54 people have drowned in Ontario. Last year, 43 people died from drowning over the same time period, according to the Canadian Red Cross.
Jérémie Audette was the province's latest drowning victim. He was found floating in the pool Wednesday morning at a home daycare on Rougemont Drive in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans.
Paramedics responded to the call at about 10:20 a.m. ET and were unable to revive the boy. He was rushed to Ottawa's Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, where he died shortly thereafter.
"Jérémie was a small little guy," said Marc Potvin, the boy's uncle. "I can just imagine the fear that he had before he drowned. Poor little guy ... he's two years old."
Ottawa police are investigating the incident, which they say is standard procedure when a child under the age of four dies in an accident.
As police cordoned off the area around the home, parents arrived to take away at least a dozen children who were at the home daycare.
The family of Audette said the child was brought to the private home daycare in the Innes Road and 10th Line area by his daycare provider. The home has an above-ground swimming pool with a deck and stairs leading up to the edge.
Parents said a number of daycares and babysitters in the area often got together and had communal events and that several children from the surrounding area were brought to the home.
Under provincial rules, no more than five children under the age of 10 can be at one provider's home. Police say more than 20 children of different ages were at the home at the time of the incident, but it's not known how many were under the age of 10.
Life-jackets, water wings not enough
The manager of Mothercraft, the agency governing daycare in Ottawa, said there are no special rules in place for when several daycare providers meet at a single home daycare and no rules in place for pools at home daycares.
"We don't have any rules about use of pools," said Janet Libbey. "It usually comes down to the parents' choice of whether they are comfortable with that place, whether they choose that provider or not."
The home daycare was also unlicensed, but licensing is not mandatory in Ontario.
The Canadian Red Cross said the incident is a reminder to parents and caregivers to never leave children unattended near swimming pools even if they are wearing life-jackets or water wings, which are not enough to prevent drowning.
Leslie Anderson, of the eastern Ontario Red Cross, said children should be supervised around swimming pools, and infants and toddlers deserve special attention.
"Children age one to four are a fairly high-risk group," said Anderson. "Part of the issue is they don't necessarily have a fear of the water, and they are drawn towards it, and they don't understand that it's a danger area."
The smaller lungs of young children also mean it takes less water for them to drown should they breathe in water, said Anderson.