Ontario's Education Ministry has confirmed that a four-month-old boy who died on Valentine's Day was in the care of an unlicensed daycare operating in northwest Toronto.
The daycare is located at 20 Broad Oaks Dr., near Keele Street West and Finch Avenue. The baby was pronounced dead in hospital. A cause of death has not been released.
In a statement, Education Minister Liz Sandals confirmed her staff were informed of the death by police on Feb. 18 and told that the daycare was not licensed.
"My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the child at this devastating time," said Sandals in a statement. "My ministry has begun an investigation and will fully cooperate with any other authorities conducting investigations about this incident."
Current rules allow up to five children who are not related to the caregiver in an unregulated home daycare. Many unlicensed day cares operate out of homes of their clients' friends and neighbours and many provide a high standard of care.
But because home day cares are not inspected or licensed, it's often up to the parents to ensure the environment is safe and the staff properly trained. Ministry inspections have found cases where home day cares had too many children on the premises and other health and safety risks.
Two-year-old Eva Ravikovich died while in the care of an unlicensed daycare in Vaughan in 2013. The girl's mother has filed a $3.5 million lawsuit against the operators and the Ministry of Education, claiming negligence. The daycare has since been shut down due to multiple health and safety infractions.
'There are no rules. Anyone can open one'
Andrea Calver Ontario Coalition for better childcare said deaths like this highlight a greater problem in child care: too much demand and not enough licensed daycare spaces, forcing parents to turn to home day cares.
"This isn't really a criminal issue," she said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning Thursday. "We need to look at why children are in unlicensed childcare. Most parents would choose a childcare that had rules, regulations, trained staff and yet 80 per cent of children are in unlicensed childcare. There are no rules. Anyone can open one."
New rules are in the works to reduce the number of children allowed in unlicensed childcare environments, increase fines for violations and to allow the ministry to shut down any facility they consider to be unsafe.
Education ministry officials told CBC News they've had no complaints about this particular daycare.