Volume 12 Week 5

Thursday, March 15


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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney




(Posted 9:30 a.m., Nov. 30)
Father describes horrific moments after learning of son's death
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The circumstances surrounding the 2010 drowning death of Jérèmie Audette are the focus of a coroner's inquest which began on Monday. File photo


Alain Audette first heard that something terrible had happened to his son Jérèmie in a panic filled message left on his office voicemail.

“I was at work,” Audette told the hushed courtroom during day four of a coroner's inquest into the circumstances surrounding his son's tragic death on July 28, 2012. "When I went down, I had a message. I listened to it and it was her."

The "her" Audette referred to was his son's caregiver Cynthia McLellan..

"It was her in panic mode telling me that Jérèmie had jumped in the big pool," said Audette. "Right away, I didn’t think. I just started to run.”

While McLellan didn't use the words "drowning" or "dead" in her message, the warning bells instinctively went off in Audette's head.

Before leaving his office he quickly called McLellan who was only supposed to be his son's caregiver for another week or two.

“I asked her, 'Is he dead?',” Audette said while recalling those first horrific moments. “She wouldn’t answer me."

He then quickly called his wife, who was pregnant with their second child at the time. "I just told her 'I think Jérèmie's dead'," Audette said choked with emotion.

Unwilling to fully comprehend the magnitude of what McLellan was not telling him, Audette sped to the home of Wendy Lapierre who was hosting a play date for the kids in her care as well as three other caregivers including McLellan who was looking after seven children at the time.

When Audette got to Lapierre's street it was blocked by a police car. After finding out his son had been taken to CHEO he drove straight to the hospital where his worst fears were confirmed.

“I was the first at CHEO,” he said. “I saw him taken out of the ambulance."

Audette told the inquest that he and his wife had no prior knowledge that McLellan was taking their son on a "play date", or that there would be 30 other kids at the event in close proximity to an above ground pool.

He did admit that he and his wife were concerned about the number of outings McLellan took her children on and that they had already made arrangements to transfer him to another day care.

Prior to Audette's testimony, the inquest was given an education on the difference between licensed and unlicensed day cares in Ontario. The biggest difference is that unlicensed day care spots are much cheaper because they is no obligation to meet and maintain provincial standards. The lone regulation they must adhere to is a limit of five children under the age of 10, not including their own children.

Unlicensed home-based day cares are allowed to exist out of necessity. According to the agency which runs Ottawa's centralized waiting list for daycare spots, there are currently 12,200 children waiting to attend a licensed day care of which there are 130 in Ottawa.

For many parents unlicensed day cares are the only option available to them. One of the problems is that the limitation on the number of kids an unlicensed day care operator can care for necessitates a large number of operators to keep up with demand. The Child Care Providers Resource Network for Ottawa-Carleton lists 92 unlicensed home-based day cares in Orléans. That might seem like a lot, until you consider they can only provide care for 460 kids in a community of nearly 100,000 people.

After Jérèmie's tragic death, McLellan closed her home-based day care which forced the parents of the remaining children to scramble for an alternative. Most had difficulty finding another caregiver in the short term due to the lack of both licensed and unlicensed day care spots in Orléans.

The Audettes knew the difference between licensed and unlicensed day cares and they checked McLellan's references before contracting her to take care of their son. It was only after they had concerns about the number of outings she took the kids on that they decided to switch providers.

Asked what he would like to see happen in the tragic aftermath of his son's death, Audette said that the province should prohibit home-based day cares from having swimming pools.

Immediately following Jérèmie's death, the Ministry issued a memo requiring licensed daycares not to have pools on their premises.

It is expected the inquest will result in several recommended changes to the Ontario Day Nurseries Act including the prohibition of wading and swimming pools from both licensed and unlicensed daycares.

The inquest will continue on Monday.

A police photo shows the South Fallinbrook backyard where two-year-old Jérèmie Audette drowned while attending a playdate on July 28, 2010.. Ottawa Police Service photo


(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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