Categorized | Editorial

Children in daycares must be protected

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

Early in the morning of a hot July day in 2013, 2-year-old Eva Ravikovich was left in a parked car by her unlicensed daycare provider. At the end of the day Olena Panfilova realized she had left the toddler behind. But it was too late. Eva was already dead from heat stroke.

Panfilova finally admitted what she had done in court this week as she pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing Eva’s death.

But it’s not just Panfilova’s actions that should be under scrutiny. Ontario also failed Eva by not strictly enforcing rules for unlicensed day cares.

At the time of Eva’s death, for example, Panfilova was legally allowed to care for five children in her home. But on that day she was watching 35, as well as 14 dogs. There had been reports of overcrowding in her daycare but investigators hadn’t followed up. And when they did follow up in 2012 they simply sent her a letter telling her to reduce the number of children in her care. A letter.

Indeed, a report by former Ontario Ombudsman André Marin would later find a “bureaucracy that shied away from inspections and investigations and preferred to use soft tools of encouragement.”

Two years ago Ontario tightened the rules governing unlicensed daycares to make them safer and increased penalties for infractions. That should help — if the rules are enforced.

But it doesn’t address the issue of why parents must turn to unregulated daycares in the first place. While three-quarters of mothers of young children are in the workforce, there are licensed spots available for less than a quarter of children under 5.

In its recent budget the Trudeau government announced $7 billion over the next decade to ease the shortage by creating up to 40,000 new spaces. But that isn’t enough to meet the demand.

As Marin asked in his report, “What could be more pressing, more urgent, than protecting children?” The answer is nothing. While Ontario must be sure to enforce its new rules for unregulated daycares, Ottawa and the provinces must tackle the national child care crisis by building a national, affordable licensed system.

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