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Ontario education minister to introduce changes to daycare system

The province’s education minister has announced planned changes to the daycare system in Ontario following the recent deaths of two children at unlicensed daycares.

Under the Child Care Modernization Act, Liz Sandals said she wants to increase the number of spaces in licensed home daycares by about 6,000 by allowing them to take in six children instead of the current number of five.

The legislation, being proposed on Tuesday, calls for tougher penalties and restrictions as well.The province would be able to shut down a daycare if child safety is at risk and level penalties of up to $100,000.

The changes would also force private daycares with more than five children under the age of four to be licensed.

“When parents drop their children off for child care, they want to know they’re in a safe nurturing environment, regardless of whether they are in licensed or unlicensed care,” Sandals said in a release.

“They also need to know that the government will be able to intervene when a child’s safety is at risk. That is exactly what this legislation provides.”

Sandals said the day nurseries act hasn’t had any significant changes since 1983.

The opposition parties have said that the government needs to act against unlicensed daycares after two toddlers died in the Toronto area in July while in their care.

On Nov. 13, a nine-month old baby girl died in an unlicensed daycare in Markham. An autopsy didn’t find a cause of death but the coroner’s office is still investigating along with the homicide unit. And in July, two-year-old Eva Ravikovich died in a home daycare near Highway 407 and Dufferin Street in Vaughan.

Her parents are suing the daycare owners and the province’s Ministry of Education for $3.5 million, alleging an unsafe environment and inadequate inspections.

In total, there are 5,050 licensed child care centres in Ontario that offer 294,490 spaces and 143,020 of them are in publicly-funded schools.