With the recent death of Duy-An Nguyen, a 14 month-old toddler, at the hands of an unlicensed day-care operator, we need to ask ourselves how much more are we willing to tolerate before we demand a national childcare program?

Duy-An Nguyen was taken off of life support, two days after suffering “severe head trauma” at April’s Daycare, which operated without a licence in Mississauga. The owner of the day-care, April Luckese, has subsequently been charged with second-degree murder. Luckese’s day-care had previously been subcontracted by a larger licensed operator, but was dropped in 2007 after complaints that Luckese was looking after too many children at one time.

Duy-An Nguyen had only been at April’s Daycare for only two days before she suffered her fatal injuries. Her mother had been forced to place her in day-care after her maternity leave ran out. Like Nguyen’s family, most parents are forced to seek out unlicensed day-care facilities because they are more plentiful and affordable. At the moment, the only childcare most parents are able to depend upon is the $100/month childcare supplement from the Harper government. In turn, these unlicensed facilities offer no guarantee of cleanliness, proper care, or decent supervision; in fact, the Ontario Day Nurseries Act applies only to licensed day-cares, and it is only licensed day-cares that receive monthly inspections from a professional at the day-care agency.

Although it seems counterintuitive, it is perfectly legal to operate an unlicensed day-care in Ontario! The only stipulation is that unlicensed day-cares are not supposed to have more than five children at a time, but there is nobody to monitor this number; many unlicensed day-care operators take in more than five children in order to earn more money. But with an increase in the number of children one looks after, the standards for supervision and proper care begin to wane. Back in 2007, for example, a young boy was bitten more than eighteen times by another child at an unlicensed day-care; three adults were supervising twenty-six children, and nobody knew first aid, CPR, or had early childhood education training in that case. The owner of the day-care was charged with criminal negligence, but the real crime is why a day-care was allowed to operate by adults who were not qualified for the job, and why the day-care was allowed to operate with so many children in its care when the law clearly does not allow for such a practice.

If Canada had a national childcare program that was affordable to everybody, crimes like this would cease to exist. Parents with low incomes wouldn’t have to worry about finding the cheapest possible care for their children because they cannot afford anything better; there would be enough day-care spaces to be occupied by any child in need of care; and day-care operators would receive the proper training to operate a day-care, and would also receive a decent wage, which would prevent the desire to accumulate as many children as possible under one’s care in order to make more money. The only way to prevent more crimes from occurring in daycares across Canada is to stop the black market of day-care operations in Canada.

We need quality public childcare now!