Vaughan daycare to reopen after ‘protection order’ suspends licence
Infant room closed as centre addresses force-feeding claim
A Vaughan daycare, closed by provincial officials a week ago amid allegations of force-feeding of infants caught on security video, will be allowed to reopen Monday.
Ontario’s Licence Appeal Tribunal lifted the Education Ministry’s licence suspension on Cudley Corner Child Care Centre at a Friday hearing, until a full appeal can be heard in the new year.
“The tribunal is satisfied there is no longer any imminent threat,” said tribunal vice-chair David Flude, in his ruling on behalf of the two-person panel. The daycare has suspended two staff members and has agreed to keep the infant room closed until it meets provincial licensing requirements, he added.
“The tribunal finds that the (daycare owner) will suffer irreparable harm” if the centre remains closed, Flude ruled. Twenty families at the 96-space for-profit centre had already left, he noted.
“The loss of 20 per cent of its business undertaking and the damage to its reputation are not insignificant” in a trade that demands a high degree of confidence in the operator, he said. Cudley Corner owner Sandeep Singh, who says the security video doesn’t corroborate the ministry’s allegations of force-feeding, was relieved by the decision.
“I’m just glad to be in operation for all the families that need us to open up on Monday morning,” she said.
“We will not be opening up (the infant) room until we have full confidence in our staff in that room and everybody is fully trained,” said Singh, an early childhood educator and mother of three.
Singh told the hearing she has addressed or is in the process of addressing all the safety and staff training issues identified by licensing officials in their suspension order.
Four other Cudley Corner Child Care Centres she owns in the GTA and Hamilton have been inspected and continue to operate as usual, she added.
Education Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
Ministry licensing officials closed the centre on Major Mackenzie Dr., west of Hwy. 400, after a Seneca College student on a field placement notified York Region Children’s Aid of concerns.
York Region police were also informed, but are not investigating, an Education Ministry spokeswoman said earlier this week.
They issued a “protection order” and suspended the Vaughan centre’s licence on Nov. 13 after ministry and children’s aid officials visited the centre the previous day to interview staff and view the daycare’s security video.
According to the ministry’s order, the video allegedly shows two staff members physically restraining children in the centre’s infant room during meal times and “(forcing) food down their mouths,” among other health and safety issues.
Several video segments from Nov. 5, 10 and 12, played during Friday’s tribunal hearing, show two staff members feeding children while seated on the floor in the centre’s infant room, a practice Singh acknowledged does not meet health and safety regulations.
Children should be fed in high chairs with safety straps, she agreed when questioned by government lawyer Sandra Nishikawa.
The video, which was taken from the ceiling in a corner of the room with no audio, shows two staff members on different occasions holding the children’s arms underneath their own while feeding them. But since the video captures only the backs of the heads of the staff and children, it is difficult to tell if they are being force-fed, as alleged in the ministry’s protection order. Nor does the video appear to show children crying or kicking their feet in distress, as alleged.
In another video segment, a staff member is feeding a child in a baby swing, contrary to safety regulations.
Nishikawa asked Singh if she could see a staff member squeeze the child’s cheeks to insert a spoonful of food, but the daycare operator said she could not.
The ministry allegations “are horrific. . . . but none of that is clear from the tape,” said the daycare’s lawyer, Symon Zucker, in his closing submission.
Nishikawa said the ministry “has a different view” of what appears on the video. However, as she told Flude, Friday’s hearing was not to debate the merits of the suspension.