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Ontario's daycare safety inspection system flawed: AG report

How safe are your kids at daycare? Ontario's auditor general revealed some damning facts about the province's safety inspection and vetting process this week.

29,000 'serious occurrences' of safety violations discovered in 4-year period

One Ontario daycare hadn't been inspected in more than 18 months despite numerous safety violations, including leaving knifes in reach of children. (Ian Barrett/Canadian Press)

Many parents dropping their children off at daycare may be wondering just how safe their children are after Ontario's auditor general found that the province's system for inspecting daycare facilities is flawed.

In her annual audit of government spending released Tuesday, Bonnie Lysyk reported more than 29,000 "serious occurrences" at provincially licenced and private home services over about a four-year period.

The incidents consist of injuries, alleged abuses, children going missing or potential threats to safety present at the province's daycares.

Lysyk's report specifically referenced one unnamed daycare that hadn't been inspected for more than a year and a half despite a slew of recent safety violations, including leaving knives and toxic cleaning products within reach of kids. 

"We think that the focus should be on high-risk daycares," said Lysyk, referring to the need for stepped-up inspections. 

She also offered a warning to parents with children attending daycare in Ontario. 

"As a parent, I think all of us should do our due diligence in ensuring that the child care operators that we’re entrusting our children to are, in our opinion, good operators," she said. 

But Education Minister Liz Sandals said the province has taken steps to ensure children are safer while at daycare.

"We've already hired additional inspectors and we've reduced the backlog of inspections by half," she told reporters on Tuesday. 

The audit also revealed that the province has been issuing licences to facilities before all the proper paperwork and safety requirements have been met. At new daycare centres, Lysyk found that only about 50 per cent had criminal record checks on file for staff who work directly with children. 

Sandals said the recently passed Child Care Modernization Act will make mandatory tougher background checks for daycare employees. 

With files from CBC's Mike Crawley

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