Police report shows 'Baby Mac' daycare operator was allegedly operating illegally for 4th time the day B.C. toddler died
VANCOUVER -- The East Vancouver unlicensed child-care provider facing criminal charges in connection with the death of Macallan Wayne Saini, also known as Baby Mac, was allegedly operating illegally the day the toddler died in her care, according to an official report from Vancouver police.
According to the report, written in part by a patrol officer who responded to a 911 call from the Kitchener Street daycare on the afternoon of Jan. 18, 2017, “(Yasmine) Saad was taking care of 5 children (that day)…all under the age of 18 mos.”
Under B.C.’s Community Care & Assisted Living Act, the maximum number of children an unlicensed provider may care for is only two, or a sibling group, who are not related to the operator.
CTV News obtained the police report from publicly available court filings made by the legal team representing Baby Mac’s parents as part of an ongoing lawsuit against Saad, the owners of the East Vancouver duplex, the province, and the regional health authority, Vancouver Coastal Health.
All have denied any wrongdoing.
The stunning allegation comes three-and-a-half years after a CTV News investigation alleged that Saad broke the law three times, at three separate locations, in 2010, 2012, and in 2016, by having too many children in her care.
The investigation found that while Vancouver Coastal Health licensing officers had the ability to fine Saad up to $10,000 per occurrence, or to apply for an injunction to shut Saad’s daycare down, they did neither, and instead, in 2010 and 2012, issued warning letters.
In January 2016, one year before 16-month-old Baby Mac died, records obtained by CTV News through a Freedom of Information request show Saad called a licensing officer the day after inspectors visited the daycare to indicate she had reduced the number of children in her care, and was in compliance.
There is no record of further follow up visits.
Saad is awaiting trial on criminal charges related to Baby Mac’s death, including one count of failure to provide the necessaries of life, and one count of fraud over $5,000.
She is also charged with a second count of failing to provide the necessaries of life that CTV News previously reported relates to eight other children.
CTV News reached out to Saad via her lawyer about the contents of the police report and did not receive a substantive response.
John Rice, a lawyer representing Baby Mac’s parents, told CTV News in a statement that, given the ongoing criminal and civil litigation, “it would be improper…to make any public comment at this time.”
Longtime child care advocate Sharon Gregson, also a friend and colleague of Baby Mac’s mother, Shelley Sheppard, said she was troubled by the revelation Saad was allegedly operating illegally for a fourth time the day the toddler died.
“It’s impossible to provide high quality care to that many young children at once,” Gregson, provincial spokesperson for B.C.’s $10 a Day Childcare Campaign, told CTV News.
“There should be zero tolerance. We should be throwing the book at these people,” Gregson added. “It means that the first offence is a $10,000 a day fine to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gregson said she’s not aware of that kind of fine ever being handed out to any unlicensed caregiver operating illegally.
And in those same court filings, the lawyer representing Vancouver Coastal Health in the lawsuit indicates that appears to be the case, at least between April 2010 and January 2017.
“VCH did not apply for penalties to be levied against an unlicensed daycare operator or apply for injunctive relief,” wrote Catherine Woods, Q.C., in a letter to the plaintiff’s lawyer.
Health authority admits it should have done more to follow up
For the first time, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is also admitting it should have done more to follow up with Saad during its inspection one year prior to Baby Mac’s death.
According to publicly available excerpts from a sworn deposition by Paul Markey, VCH’s regional manager of licensing, in connection with the civil case, Markey agreed with the plaintiff’s lawyer, John Rice, when asked, that after licensing officers substantiated a third offence in 2016, Saad had become a “chronic offender.”
Rice also asks: “Do you think…it was appropriate for (licensing officers) to rely on Ms. Saad and Ms. Saad’s word and her promises on how she planned to reduce to more than — no more than two children?”
Markey responds: “Well no. I mean — no. It’s not, on the face of it it’s not. I mean, options for enforcement, as we’ve already talked about, are limited.”
He goes on to answer: “I mean, yeah, you can say it doesn’t look great on the paper, when you see the numbers on the paper.”
Records obtained by CTV News show licensing officers, responding to a December 2015 complaint, found Saad with four children in her care on Jan. 13, 2016: two in booster seats, one in a rocker, and one upstairs sleeping in a playpen.
Their report details that “Jasmine (sic) says she was in a ‘temporary transition period with two children’ and all the parents are aware.”
It adds Saad told inspectors she agreed to reduce to two children in care in order to comply with the law. The licensing officer labeled Saad a “Level 3 - Moderate Risk to Health and Safety” in her report.
Records show the next day, the licensing officer received a phone call where Saad “confirmed two families have left” the daycare.
There is no record of any further follow up visits to Saad’s daycare prior to Baby Mac’s death.
In Paul Markey’s 2020 deposition, when the plaintiff’s lawyer asks Markey whether the licensing officer should have followed up with another in-person inspection, he agrees:
Markey: “Yeah. Should have been — this should have been a site visit, a site visit following this to confirm that this is in fact what happened.”
Rice: “At an absolute minimum?”
Rice: “There should have been a follow-up site visit because we know, don’t we that we can’t count on (Saad’s) assurances to change her behaviour to operate a daycare that’s not illegal with less — with two children or less; right?”
When asked about the lack of follow up by licensing officers, Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. said:
“I think any reasonable person would want that operation shut down. Would want consequences. Harsh consequences.”
In a statement, Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Jeremy Deutsch told CTV News: “This was a tragic incident - we share our heartfelt condolences with the impacted family and friends. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is unable to comment on the case as the matter is before the courts.”
Though in its December 2018 response to the lawsuit brought by Baby Mac’s parents earlier that year, lawyers for VCH did address complaints made against Saad prior to Baby Mac’s death and said they all were “appropriately investigated and dealt with.”
The statement went on to say VCH inspects some 1,400 daycares routinely each year, including each reportable incident and complaint, and publicly posts facilities confirmed to be unlawful on its website.
In August 2017, after several CTV News stories, the province urged all regional health authorities in a letter to step up their tracking of non-compliant operators as well to use the enforcement tools against repeat offenders, including fines and injunctions.
In its statement, VCH told CTV News that the process for tracking complaints about unlawful daycares “has been made more robust.”
“Repeat offenders can be tracked, with prescribed timelines for revisits to confirm the operator is not illegally running a daycare,” Deutsch wrote.
“Achieving compliance is the ultimate goal. This can take the form of limiting the number of children to two, closing the facility, or having the operator apply and obtain a license.”
It remains unclear if Vancouver Coastal Health has fined any unlicensed daycare operator for any reason since Baby Mac’s death.
CTV News asked the health authority that specific question, which was not directly addressed in its response.
Gregson hopes the continued attention surrounding Baby Mac’s case reminds those who have a responsibility to British Columbia’s children, whether federal or provincial officials working to fund new affordable licensed child-care spaces, or licensing officers following up on unlicensed daycare complaints, to be more pro-active.
“What it really does tell us, is how far we have to go to make sure that tragedies like this don’t happen again,” said Gregson.
The lawsuit filed by Baby Mac’s parents is scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court in April 2022.
Saad, who was criminally charged last September, is on track to go on trial sometime in 2022.