Child's death raises private daycare questions

The death of a two-year-old at a home north of Toronto is raising new questions about conditions at private daycares.

'There's no daycare police,' expert says

Homicide detectives are investigating after a two-year-old child died Monday evening at a daycare centre in Vaughan, Ont. Public health officials shut down the centre for health infractions. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

It will likely be days before it’s known how the toddler died, but the death of a two-year-old at a home north of Toronto is raising new questions about conditions at private daycares.

Paramedics responded to a home Monday operating as a private daycare near Dufferin Street and Highway 407 in Vaughan. Inside they found a child without vital signs who could not be revived.

York Regional Police homicide detectives are investigating, as is standard procedure when a child under the age of five dies, but the daycare has since been cited for health violations.

Police will wait for the results of an autopsy before determining whether charges will be laid. Officials said the body showed no signs of trauma.

Provincial law limits to five the number of children under 10 years old allowed at private daycares who are not related to the operator.

Officials found more than that at the Vaughan daycare. York Region's community and health services department confirmed that they know of 29 children so far who were being cared for at the Vaughan daycare. However, that doesn't necessarily mean there were 29 children at the home on Monday.

The Ministry of Education, which deals with unlicensed daycares, is involved in the investigation.

"No this is very unusual," said Dr. Barbara Yaffe of Toronto public heath about the child’s death in Vaughan. "It could be toxic, it could be a metabolic illness, it could even be an allergy, there's all sorts of possible reasons," she said.

Government oversight lacking

Don Giesbrecht, CEO Canadian Child Care Federation, was interviewed about the issue Thursday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.


'The majority of child care in this country is being done in unregulated unmonitored environments.'—Don Giesbrecht, CEO of Canadian Child Care Federation

Giesbrecht told host Matt Galloway that while many unlicensed private daycares offer great service and fill a need for working parents, there is little government oversight about how they operate.

"The majority of child care in this country is being done in unregulated unmonitored, unlicensed, environments," he said.  "Until somebody says something is wrong, there's no mechanism that's going to stop them. There's no daycare police that are going to shut you down unless there's a formal complaint."

Giesbrecht said the demand for daycare spaces in Canada far outstrips supply. He said there are 900,000 licensed childcare spaces in Canada but there are three million children with parents in the workforce.

While not speaking specifically about the toddler’s death in Vaughan, Giesbrecht said the demand for daycare creates a situation in which daycares aren’t held to a high standard.