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Complaints about Vaughan daycare involved in toddler’s death went unanswered

Liz Sandals speaks to the media following the swearing in of Kathleen Wynne as Ontario's first female premier, on Feb. 11, 2013. Ms. Sandals has been named the province’s Education Minister amid a protracted dispute between the provincial government and teachers.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A review will be conducted of all complaints filed against unlicensed daycare centres in Ontario in the past year to ensure follow-up procedures were properly followed.

The review was ordered by Education Minister Liz Sandals in the wake of the death of a two-year-old child on Monday at an unlicensed facility in Vaughan, Ont.

In a statement late Thursday, the ministry said two of three complaints lodged against the daycare where a toddler died were not properly followed up.

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"I learned earlier today that the ministry did not respond to all previous complaints made against this unlicensed provider, as is the normal policy of the ministry," said Sandals in a statement.

"This is clearly unacceptable. I have directed my deputy minister (George Zegarac) to conduct a detailed examination of this incident as well as related ministry processes."

Following the toddler's death, the ministry said it reviewed its files to see if previous complaints had been lodged about the facility and found one had been filed in November 2012. That complaint, it said, was followed by a site visit and an order to comply with daycare regulations.

But the ministry said it subsequently found two other complaints filed last October and December regarding the number of children at the daycare.

However, the ministry said neither complaint was followed by a site visit as required within five business days according what it terms "longstanding policy."

The ministry said it will review this lack of compliance and "take appropriate action as necessary." It will also review all complaints from the past year to see if follow-ups were conducted. The review was to be completed within a week.

In addition to an ongoing police investigation, the ministry is conducting a separate probe into the Vaughan daycare to determine if there are grounds to lay charges under the Day Nurseries Act.

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This will include interviewing parents to determine how many children were in the care of this particular daycare provider. Unlicensed providers can legally care for no more than five children under the age of 10.

The daycare was ordered shut down on Tuesday due to unsanitary conditions.

York Region Public Health Services spokeswoman Colleen Gareau earlier said the cause of the toddler's death was not yet known. She said an autopsy was scheduled to be performed within the next two days.

"I am devastated to learn of the death of a toddler this week in an unlicensed child care setting," said Sandals.

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

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