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While proposed legislative changes to give more power to daycare inspectors in the province are laudable, the changes don’t take away the fact power to shut down an unlicenced day care existed at the time of Eva Ravikovich’s death, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Patrick Brown.
The Globe and Mail reports that the province will introduce new legislation that will give inspectors greater power to close unsafe daycare centres immediately and give substantial fines to caregivers who break the law.
The proposed changes create an incentive for unregulated daycare facilities to become licensed, the Globe reports, and create new space in existing licensed home-based care and require school boards to provide before- and after-school programs, hinging on demand.
“I think any proactive steps to ensure that other unlicensed facilities don’t operate in the manner they have, is a good thing,” says Brown, partner at McLeish Orlando LLP, and attorney to Ravikovich’s parents who have launched a $3.5 million lawsuit against the Ontario Ministry of Education and the owners and operators of the Vaughan daycare facility where their daughter died.
“The increase in penalties is a good thing, and they’ve been increased substantially,” adds Brown. “From that standpoint, more punitive measures are needed so they simply don’t operate and close down and open somewhere else.”
Inspectors, under the proposed legislation, would be allowed to dole out fines of up to $100,000 for each infraction and up to $250,000 if serious violations lead to prosecution. Current legislation makes it difficult to shut down a daycare – the government must go to court to do so, even if a child has died. Currently, the maximum fine is $2,000 per day if a violation isn’t dealt with.
“The ability to obviously issue orders and ensure there is compliance is a good thing as well,” says Brown. “All of it looks positive, but does it absolve them from what they did in my case? No, it doesn’t. The increased fines will stop other operations from doing this kind of thing – $2,000 is nothing. They make a lot of money and can afford that kind of penalty. A fine in the six figures will prevent future tragedies from happening.”
Brown says these measures will take care of a broader spectrum of issues surrounding daycare.
“They had enough teeth to keep that facility from doing business,” Brown says of the Vaughan daycare where Ravikovich died. “With this legislative change they are trying to put additional enforcement mechanisms in place. There’s no point in having legislation if it doesn’t have teeth.”
It’s a more holistic look at daycare in Ontario and deals with all kinds of situations, something Brown says has been needed for a long time.
“This type of legislation, when they get complaints, it let’s inspectors go in there and gives them added enforcement mechanisms,” says Brown. “It’s a much broader scope. There have been inquests into day care service in the province and nothing much has come of it.”