A Quebec City daycare that has been in the public eye since a runaway incident and a CBC News investigation last fall will permanently close its doors.
The owners of the Jardin Enchanté say they are closing for “personal reasons” and that “managing the pandemic” and “a shortage of qualified daycare staff” also played a role in their decision.
Geneviève Côté and Richard Cazes said in the written statement that no children currently attend the daycare.
The daycare made headlines when three toddlers bolted unnoticed on Oct. 28, 2021, and were later found on the other side of a busy urban highway. The incident launched investigations by Youth Protection authorities and the Family Ministry.
Two of the three children were discovered in a bog and at least one had to be pulled out of the mud by a passerby. Staff at the daycare believed just two children were missing and only realized that three had left when police brought all of the children back.
A CBC News investigation revealed Youth Protection authorities had launched an earlier investigation into the private, unsubsidized daycare after a parent said they saw a staff member lift a sitting child by the arm and throw the child against a wall.
In an interview in November 2021, Côté, the director and co-owner, confirmed the investigation but said, to her knowledge, no child had been hit by staff. The CBC investigation also revealed other incidents of alleged neglect.
Warning from the ministry
On Nov. 24, 2021, the Family Ministry advised the owners they would lose their licence to operate the Jardin Enchanté.
In the following days, the owners, who also own and operate nine other daycares, said in a written statement they intended to contest the government’s decision.
The ministry justified its decision to Cazes by underlining that the daycare had received several notices of non-compliance, notably for not having enough qualified staff on site, not storing medication safely or not disposing of expired medication, and not storing cleaning or toxic products properly.
The ministry also stated the daycare was the subject of “a high number of complaints compared to other daycares of comparable size.”
The complaints, the ministry says, included not spending enough time outside with children. There were also complaints about poor menus, under-qualified staff and inappropriate attitudes toward children — including violence by some staff. The letter does not indicate the outcome of the complaints.
“I’m glad on one hand they are closing, on the other hand I don’t know what that means for potentially other places where the same management problems might be happening,” said Catherine Baboudjian, whose two children attended the daycare until June 2021.
Baboudjian says she is curious to know what will come of the ministry’s investigation. The Family Ministry confirms its investigation is ongoing, even though the daycare is closed.
Following CBC’s reporting last fall, Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe expressed frustration that, despite the owners facing “many complaints” against their various daycares, the law permits his ministry to act on only one daycare at a time.
An access-to-information request revealed the ministry had not sent a warning to the other daycares owned by the Cazes and Coté that their licences could be revoked.