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Mother of baby who died at Vancouver daycare claims negligence

Last Updated Sep 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm EDT

VANCOUVER – The mother of a baby who died at a Vancouver daycare describes the details of what she experienced that day in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

The statement of claim filed Monday alleges baby Macallan “Mac” Saini choked on an electrical cord and died because he was left alone.

His mother Shelley Sheppard is alleging negligence by the daycare operator, the property owners where the daycare was being operated, the local health authority and the provincial government.

Statements of defence have not been filed and none of the allegations made in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

Yasmine Saad, identified in the lawsuit as the operator of the daycare, could not be reached for comment.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development said it cannot comment because the matter is before the courts but legal counsel will review the lawsuit and “respond accordingly to the court.”

“The death of a child is a tragedy no parent should ever face, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the parents,” it said in an emailed statement.

The statement of claim accuses the landlords of allowing Saad to operate a daycare without a licence, failing to supervise operations and failing to ensure the premises were safe and suitable for an infant.

One of the property owners said she was unaware her tenant was operating a daycare on the premises when she rented it to her and declined further comment. The second could not be reached.

The statement of claim says Mac was 16 months old when he started attending the Olive Branch Daycare.

It says when Sheppard arrived to pick up Mac on Jan. 18, 2017 — eight days after he started attending Olive Branch — a fire truck was in front of the daycare. She followed a firefighter up the stairs, it says, and she saw her son lying on the floor with a “‘grey’ pallor.” She understood him to be dead.

“Sheppard observed the defendant Saad yelling and screaming and attempting to resuscitate Mac Saini in a perfunctory way. Her experience in … being present and witnessing the death of Mac Saini and seeing his lifeless body was shocking and horrifying to the plaintiff,” the statement says.

It alleges the daycare was “overcrowded” with children, including one who was hidden behind a couch and other children strapped to chairs.

The lawsuit accuses Vancouver Coastal Health and the Ministry of Children and Family Development of failing to warn parents or stop the daycare from operating after “multiple complaints” of operating without a licence and overcrowding.

Complaints were investigated in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016 and the lawsuit asserts the health authority identified Saad as a “moderate risk to health and safety.” It says she was never fined and no steps were taken to prevent the daycare from continuing operations.

Under B.C. law, child care providers are allowed to care for up to two children or a sibling group who are not related to them without a licence.

Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement that it inspects more than 1,100 daycares routinely ever year and inspection reports are posted on its website.

“Without commenting on this particular case, the vast majority of daycares are meeting their regulatory requirements for providing appropriate and safe care to children,” it said.

“This is a tragic incident and our heartfelt condolences go out to the parents.”

As a result of the tragedy, the claim says Mac’s mother has experienced ongoing trauma and health problems, suffering permanent disability, loss of earnings and loss of enjoyment of life.