Calgary

Father arrested in casino after Calgary toddler left in car in –8 C

A Calgary father has been charged with child abandonment after firefighters rescued a toddler from a locked car parked outside a casino.
A patron of the Silver Dollar Casino heard a child inside a car crying and called for help. ((CBC))

A Calgary father has been charged with child abandonment after firefighters rescued a toddler from a locked car parked outside a casino early Monday.

Casino video footage showed the boy, 21 months old, was likely in the car for about six hours, said police duty Insp. Rob Williams. The temperature outside was around –8 C.

"This isn't the first time, unfortunately, that we have heard of children being left in the parking lot of a mall, or a casino or a bingo hall," Williams said. "People got to realize there is a criminal charge. We were quite shocked to find this child in this condition. He wasn't even dressed properly."

The windows of the car were covered with blankets so the child couldn't be seen, but his father, 50, occasionally checked on him, said Williams.

Patron heard cries from inside car

A patron of the Silver Dollar Casino, in the 1000 block of 42 Ave. S.E., heard a child crying and called for help just after midnight.

"Fire crews gained access to the vehicle and removed a 21-month old male child from a rear child restraint," police said in a statement. "The child had vomited on his clothing, [and was] very lightly dressed with no shoes or socks. He was cold and crying."

Fire spokesman Jeff Budai said the child reached out to the firefighter who freed him.

A policy issued by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission states that casino staff have to find the caregiver of children found alone and document the case, or if no one can be found, call emergency workers. ((CBC))

"We were able to bring him into the fire truck, we gave him a stuffed animal just to calm him down and we had him giggling in no time," he said.

After the rescue, the father was arrested and the child was taken to hospital in non-life-threatening condition for assessment.

The toddler was handed over to Calgary and Area Child and Family Services, who will search for a family member to care for him or put him in foster care. Spokeswoman Dawn Delaney said Monday he was "doing well."

"The outcome of police investigation will determine the long-term outcome for the child," she said.

Police aren't naming the father to protect the boy's identity.

"We don't have any indication of a mother present at the time, so I can't comment on whether there is a mother in the child's life at all," said Williams.

Children abandoned at casinos once a month in B.C.

Mike Stoddard, the vice-president of operations for the Silver Dollar Casino, said under a policy issued by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission casino staff have to find the caregiver of children found alone and document the case, or if no one can be found, call emergency workers.

"I don't think my staff did anything wrong in this instance. It sounds like they handled it correctly as soon as they were made aware of it," he said.

In Calgary, five people have been charged with child abandonment since 2006, of which three involved children left in vehicles.

About once a month, children are left alone in vehicles in B.C. casino parking lots while their parents gamble, according to B.C. Lottery Corporation documents obtained by the CBC through an access to information request.

Between November 2002 and September 2004, there were 23 cases of children abandoned at casinos, the documents showed.

Parents who leave their children in vehicles are typically barred from the casino for a year, and they will also be flagged at other facilities, according to the BCLC.