Ombudsman to probe complaints against unlicensed daycares

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today announced he will conduct a systemic investigation into how the Ministry of Education responds to complaints and concerns relating to unlicensed daycare providers.

Vaughan, Ont., facility where toddler died last week had three complaints against it last year

Ontario's ombudsman announced a team with his office will be investigating the Mnistry of Education's response to complaints lodged against unlicensed daycare facilities. A two-year-old toddler died at this at-home daycare facility in Vaughan last week. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

The province's office of the ombudsman is the latest authority to launch a probe regarding unlicensed daycares after the death of a two-year-old child last week at a private daycare in Vaughan, Ont.

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin announced today he will be investigating how the Ministry of Education responds to complaints and concerns for unlicensed care providers.

The Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT) will be heading the investigation. The Ministry of Education has already been notified about the forthcoming probe.

"In view of the high level of public interest in proceeding with this case, I have directed SORT to complete the fact-finding stage of the investigation within the next 90 days," Marin said.

The ministry itself is conducting a separate investigation into how it handles complaints filed against unlicensed daycares after it was revealed that the Vaughan facility in which a child died was the subject of at least three complaints in 2012.

Ministry of Education reviewing complaints

Only one of the three complaints was properly followed up with a site inspection by ministry officials, Minister of Education Liz Sandals said, calling the lack of action "unacceptable."

Her ministry is reviewing all complaints filed against unlicensed daycares in Ontario in the past year to see if the ministry followed up. The report is expected to be completed this week. 

Sandals said the complaints — lodged in October, November and December of 2012 — were concerning the amount of children being monitored 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.

Unlicensed providers can legally care for no more than five children under the age of 10 — in addition to their own children.

NDP called for ombudsman involvement

The Home Child Care Association of Ontario says that under current rules, licensed daycare providers cannot care for more than two children under the age of two and no more than three children under the age of three.

It's not yet known what caused the two-year-old's death in Vaughan.

The ombudsman's announcement follows calls from the NDP last week for the independent officer to look into whether the government is doing enough to protect children in unlicensed daycares.

In 2011, a baby was shaken to death at an unlicensed facility; a toddler was found at the bottom of a pool in 2010.

The Vaughan daycare centre has since been shut down due to a number of health infractions.