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Ministry overlooked complaints about Vaughan daycare where toddler died

A two-year-old child died at a home daycare in Vaughan on July 8, 2013. CITYNEWS

Ontario’s ministry of education has launched a probe after learning its staff overlooked complaints about a Vaughan daycare where a toddler died this week.

The ministry had checked out a complaint last November and sent a warning to the facility on Yellowood Circle, near Highway 407 and Dufferin Street. But in October and December, staff was told about the excessive number of children at the daycare and didn’t follow up.

Ministry rules call for a site visit within five business days of all complaints about unlicensed daycares hosting too many children. According to the Day Nurseries Act, only five kids under the age of 10 are allowed. But there were as many as 27 children were in the house at the time of the two-year-old’s death on Monday.

“This is clearly unacceptable, and I have directed my deputy minister, George Zegarac, to conduct a detailed examination of this incident as well as related ministry processes,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said in a statement.

“I want to assure Ontarians that we are doing everything in our power to keep our children safe.”

Zegarac has ordered a review of all complaints over the past year and has made it a priority to respond to any outstanding complaints right away.

A government employee is now responsible for making sure every complaint is investigated.

The province is also investigating the daycare in question, whose operations were suspended, to see if there are grounds for charges under the Day Nurseries Act. The providers could be fined $2,000 for each day they had too many kids and jailed for a year.

“I am devastated to learn of the death,” Sandals said.

“This is a tragedy that no parent should have to experience and my heart goes out to the loved ones of this child.”

NDP critic Monique Taylor has asked Ontario ombudsman André Marin to carry out an independent review of the ministry’s actions.

“We must get to the bottom of what happened on July 9th and we must work together to ensure that everything possible is done to protect the lives of children in child care settings in our province,” she said on Friday.

“Oversight of the well-being of children in Ontario is paramount. A child’s daycare must not be a dangerous place.”

Marin has asked his staff to assess whether the case warrants a probe.