British Columbia

1 year after Baby Mac's death at an illegal daycare, his parents still have no answers

Daycare remains unaffordable and inaccessible to most British Columbians, say child-care advocates.

Daycare remains unaffordable and inaccessible to most British Columbians, say child-care advocates

The parents of Macallan Wayne Saini say he filled a room with joy and curiosity. (Shelly Sheppard)

It's been one year since the death of 15-month old Macallan Wayne Saini at an illegal daycare in East Vancouver — but his parents are still no closer to learning how their son died.

Vancouver police have forwarded a report to Crown counsel to assess whether charges will be approved against the operator of the daycare where Macallan, known as Baby Mac, died in an accident on Jan. 18, 2017.

There is no estimate of when the assessment will be complete, and the cause of death has still not been released.

"This death is under investigation and all available information regarding the investigative findings to date has been shared with the family," said Andy Watson of the B.C. Coroners Service.

Sixteen-month-old Macallan Wayne Saini, seen here with his family, died on Jan. 18, 2017 at a daycare in East Vancouver. (John Sheppard)

Baby Mac's parents, Shelly Sheppard and Chris Saini, declined an interview because of the stress and anxiety around the anniversary of their child's death.

But campaigners for affordable child care say some good may yet come out of the tragedy.

Mac's death created a tidal wave for many families.- Sharon Gregson , $10 a day childcare advcoate

Sheppard and Saini have themselves been strong advocates of more affordable child care in B.C. and played a huge role in making it an issue in the run-up to the 2017 provincial election, during which the NDP campaigned for $10-a-day child care.

"Mac's death created a tidal wave for many families and the impact is still being felt in our province," said Sharon Gregson, spokeswoman for the $10aDay child-care campaign.

"It generated attention to an issue that had not been getting enough attention. It has generated advocacy and activism from parents and grandparents and early childhood educators that did never see themselves playing that role," she said.

"His eyes sparkled and smiled at everyone and everything," say parents of Macallan Wayne Saini, who died a day before turning 16 months. (Shelly Sheppard)

Daycare remains unaffordable and inaccessible to most British Columbians, Gregson said.

Fees continue to rise, wait-lists continue to grow and early child-care educators still don't earn enough money to stay or enter the profession, she said. 

But Gregson is hoping the NDP government will soon make good on its promise in the Feb. 20 provincial budget. 

Parents Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini say they've been robbed of the chance to see him grow. "We will never be able to teach Mac to ride a bike, walk him to school, or see him fall in love. All the things parents dream of." (Shelley Sheppard)

Daycare operating illegally

Vancouver Coastal Health conducted its own investigation after Baby Mac's death and concluded that the daycare was operating illegally. 

After the toddler died, it was revealed that Yasmine Saad, the daycare's operator, had three previous regulation violations for caring for too many children at other locations, but was never fined. 

Macallan Wayne Saini died Jan. 19, 2017 in East Vancouver, in what police say is a non-suspicious death. (John Sheppard)

Under B.C.'s Community Care and Assisted Living Act, unlicensed child-care operators are only allowed to care for two children at a time and can be fined up to $10,000 a day for violations.

The daycare closed after Baby Mac's death.

There is nowhere for parents to look up unlicensed daycares or view previous complaints, but VCH said it has modified its system so licensing staff can more "easily identify individuals who have illegally operated a child or residential care facility."

Previously they could only search by address, but now they can now track by name, alias and address. ​

Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy said the government is going to address the gaps in child care in the upcoming legislative session.

"I know that nothing will bring Baby Mac back. But what we can do is strengthen the child care system in B.C.," Conroy said in an e-mail statement to CBC News.

"As the Premier has said, no parent should ever feel pressured, because of either a lack of available spaces or information, to forego licensed care when that is their preferred option. Child-care providers who are acting outside of their legal operating mandate – including those who are unlicensed – must be identified and held accountable," she said.

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