Kids strapped into seats in front of TV at unlicensed daycare: Witness

The witness was testifying on the first of what’s expected to be an eight-day sentencing hearing for Susy Yasmine Saad

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A witness at a sentencing hearing for the unlicensed daycare operator convicted in the so-called Baby Mac daycare tragedy said he saw kids strapped into seats in front of the TV at the daycare when he went to pick up his daughter.

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The witness, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, was testifying on the first of what’s expected to be an eight-day sentencing hearing for Susy Yasmine Saad.

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In April, Saad pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life to nine children, including Macallan Saini, a toddler who was found dead at the Olive Branch Family Daycare on Kitchener Street in Vancouver on Jan. 18, 2017. The 16-month-old boy was discovered unconscious and blue in his playpen with a string of lights wrapped around and embedded in his neck. Paramedics were called to the scene but he could not be revived.

The necessaries of life include providing a safe environment and Saad failed to provide a safe environment for the children in her care and this failure endangered their lives, according to an agreed statement of facts filed in court.

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Saad operated without a license and cared for up to six toddlers at a time, exceeding the allowable and safe limit of two at a time. She also left toddlers unsupervised and did not check on sleeping children with reasonable frequency.

The Crown is expected to call a total of 11 witnesses to provide evidence on a number of disputed aggravating facts in the case before making their sentencing position known.

The identities of the witnesses, all of them parents of children at Saad’s daycare, cannot be disclosed due to a publication ban imposed by BC Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge. The parents testifying at the sentencing hearing are not the parents of the nine children in the indictment.

The first witnesses were a mother and father of a toddler who was impressed at Saad’s daycare in March 2010. The dad testedified that they were by materials provided to them by Saad before their girl entering the daycare.

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“I recall her coming across as being very professional,” said the dad, adding that Saad told them she was going to open a series of daycares.

Under questioning from Crown counsel Mark Myhre, the dad said they were told by Saad that she was licensed but that when they pressed her for evidence of her license, she had excuses for not providing it and they never did see a license.

Susy Yasmine Saad, left, leaves BC Supreme Court in Vancouver on Sept.  20.
Susy Yasmine Saad, left, leaves BC Supreme Court in Vancouver on Sept. 20. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

The dad said that he and his partner knew at time the maximum number of kids for a licensed daycare was seven kids and that there was a limit of two for children under 18 months.

He said they decided to go ahead and hire Saad because it was very hard to find daycare and they were “very happy” to find a space and one that was so close to their residence.

Asked by Myhre whether he saw anything unusual in the short time they had their child at Saad’s daycare, the dad said there were a number of times when he arrived to pick up his daughter and there seemed to be more children or different children than he’ d previously recalled.

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“I do recall at least one occasion when I arrived where the children were all strapped into high chairs or car seats of some sort, sitting in front of the TV watching at a time that was not the regular pick up at five o’clock, he said.

“I also recall a couple of times where it was clear it was much more than seven children.”

He said that he did not discuss the issue of kids being strapped into seats and the excessive number of children with Saad for a number of reasons, including that they were preparing to leave the country at the time and they knew it was going to be a short period of time using the daycare.

The dad said they also knew it was “very, very difficult” to find daycare spaces.

“So while we were uneasy about it, we were reluctant to challenge things to the point where we would have to find another daycare. It was kind of bite our tongue and accept it.”

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Under cross-examination, the father was asked whether his daughter was “ultimately” happy at the daycare.

“As for her demeanour, she seemed happy there… I didn’t have any indication that anything was wrong.”

kfraser@postmedia.com


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