British Columbia

'Don't our children deserve the best?: Mom of boy who died in daycare writes Christy Clark

The mother of a 15-month-old toddler who died at a daycare is appealing to B.C. Premier Christy Clark — from one mom to another — for reform of B.C.’s child care system.

'The child-care system is failing and my son has paid the ultimate price,' Shelley Sheppard wrote

Parents Shelley Sheppard (left) and Chris Saini in a photo with their son, Mac Saini. Mac died, Jan.19, in a Vancouver daycare. His parents are campaigning for changes to B.C.'s daycare system. (Shelley Sheppard)

The mother of a 15-month-old toddler who died at a daycare is appealing to B.C. Premier Christy Clark — from one mom to another — for reform of B.C.'s child care system.

Shelley Sheppard is calling for safer and more affordable child-care spaces after her son, Mac Saini, died in January. His death is currently under police investigation.

"As a mother, I know you wanted what was best for your son, and as an MLA, you converted a room in your office building into a nursery," she wrote in a letter to the premier. "Your son is the most important thing in your life and he always will be and being near you kept him safe and protected, as any mother would want.

"What about my son? What about other B.C. children? Don't our children deserve the best too?"

A mother and father, with a smiling male baby, in a black-and-white picture.
Fifteen-month-old Macallan Wayne Saini, seen here with his family, died Jan. 19, 2017, in East Vancouver, in what police say is a non-suspicious death. (John Sheppard)

In the letter, Sheppard writes of her Métis heritage and her work as a social worker for Aboriginal children.

She writes that when she came back from maternity leave in September 2016, she and her partner had poor experiences at two other daycares: staff "lying," she says, "being unreliable and leaving Mac with strangers" at the first one and an injury to Mac that required a hospital visit at the second. She says the third daycare is where he died.

"I believe that my experience as Mac's mother and as a social worker provides me with enough validity to confidently say the current child-care system in B.C. does not work for the majority of working families," she wrote.

"In fact, I would go so far as to say that the child-care system is failing, and my son has paid the ultimate price."

'This is a life sentence'

In an interview with On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, Sheppard said she wanted to reach out to the premier directly because of their connection as mothers.

She says she wants the premier to know that she has the power to make changes to the daycare system.

Sheppard and her partner, Chris Saini, have both expressed support for $10-a-day daycare in B.C., which the B.C. NDP and other advocates are pushing for.

The province has said it will create 13,000 new licensed child-care spaces throughout B.C. by 2020 and has invested $26.5 million to create more than 4,300 new licensed child-care spaces since 2014.

But Sheppard calls that "insufficient" and says it won't even keep up with the birth rate.

"There aren't enough licensed spots, so many parents are forced into the position of putting their children into unlicensed spaces," she said. "They're often forced, like we were, to make a quick decision because there was this lineup of people behind us waiting for this one spot we can find."

While Sheppard says the best response the premier could give is an endorsement of the $10-a-day plan, she says she will never get over the loss of her son.

"Honestly, I can still hardly believe that it's happening and that we'll never see him again," she said. "This is a life sentence. We never get to see our boy again. And living with that reality is pretty crushing."

On The Coast did request an interview with Premier Christy Clark Wednesday but was told she was not available.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast