Ex-daycare owner denies any assault
The former owner of a Canmore daycare said she has never assaulted children in her care.
Susan Preece made the comments while testifying in her defence during a trial continuation in March, saying allegations have been devastating to her.
The 40-year-old is facing seven charges of assault against children in her care when she used to own and work at a child care facility two years ago.
Although arguments and a decision by Judge Eugene Creighton were postponed, defence counsel Dale Fedorchuk said the theory of the defence is that key Crown witnesses were motivated in their actions of reporting Preece to Child and Youth Services.
“A central part of our argument is that evidence was concocted,” he said.
Crown prosecutor Doug Simpson objected to Fedorchuk’s asking Preece questions about the Crown witnesses and putting forward a conspiracy theory without evidence.
Creighton agreed that the line of questioning should avoid blowing the trial up into a conspiracy, but said the motives of Crown witnesses are something he will have to work through in making his decision.
“Motive is something I will have to look at and review witness testimony,” the judge said. “In every assault case, there are elements that have to be established by the Crown.”
Preece testified to being frustrated with the staff at the daycare that dealt with the younger children.
She said the staff routinely ignored the needs of children when simple actions like letting them have their blanket prevented the child from screaming. She added staff disliked her telling them how to perform their jobs and when to take breaks during the workday.
Due to a publication ban, the media cannot identify staff members who were witnesses or publish any information that could lead to the identification of the victims.
A year ago, seven former staff members testified for the Crown that Preece inappropriately used force and restrained several children in her care between January and March 2010.
Fedorchuk questioned her about each incident. One involved an allegation that Preece had her hands on a child’s neck, forcing him down at nap time.
“I never at any time had my hands on his neck,” she said. “That never happened.”
Another staff member accused Preece of grabbing a child out of a crib and slamming him down onto a mat on the floor.
“It would have never have happened that way,” Preece said. “I was never like that with the children.”
Other incidents staff testified about alleged she was rough and impatient with the children, particularly when they cried or were fussing at nap time.
Preece said when you work in the business of providing child care, you deal with crying children all the time.
“I have no reason to react that way with children,” she said. “They do that, they cry and get upset.”
Preece said she moved to Canmore with her husband in 2007 and started the daycare because they saw there was a need in the community for more spaces.
They opened their doors in 2008 and invested $100,000 of their own money and took on $200,000 in debt.
When they sold the business at the end of 2010 for $23,000 after the allegations of assault were made against her, Preece said they lost money and still owe $90,000.
Her husband, Kevin Preece, testified at the time of the allegations the business was starting to make a profit. It was also put forward by the defence that one of the staff was interested in purchasing the business from the Preeces.
He said he never saw his wife use inappropriate force or restraint against children in her care.
The Criminal Code protects people in authority like child care workers. The code states a person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a child under their care if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.
None of the staff who testified reported the incidents to police and none of the children Preece is accused of assaulting required medical care.
It was Child and Family Services who made the complaint to RCMP while investigating the staff’s concerns.