July 19, 2018

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RCMP investigating abuse allegations at Peguis First Nation daycare

RCMP are investigating three former employees of the Peguis First Nation daycare, after local Child and Family Services officials determined there was evidence children at the facility were being abused, the Free Press has learned.

Despite the Peguis Free Spirits Child Care Centre’s board of directors reportedly being made aware of an allegation against one of the then-employees in April, parents of the young children who attend the centre were left in the dark for months.

While the CFS investigation was underway, the accused employee was allowed to continue working with children at the facility, which looks after children ages one to four.

CFS recently determined there was enough evidence of abuse (from video surveillance and eye-witness testimony) that the matter should be handed over to the RCMP. In addition, CFS implicated and named two additional employees.

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RCMP are investigating three former employees of the Peguis First Nation daycare, after local Child and Family Services officials determined there was evidence children at the facility were being abused, the Free Press has learned.

Despite the Peguis Free Spirits Child Care Centre’s board of directors reportedly being made aware of an allegation against one of the then-employees in April, parents of the young children who attend the centre were left in the dark for months.

While the CFS investigation was underway, the accused employee was allowed to continue working with children at the facility, which looks after children ages one to four.

CFS recently determined there was enough evidence of abuse (from video surveillance and eye-witness testimony) that the matter should be handed over to the RCMP. In addition, CFS implicated and named two additional employees.

It is not known whether the alleged abuse was physical or sexual in nature, nor how many children may be involved.

The Mounties have confirmed they are investigating.

The staff members in question – whom the Free Press has decided not to name since charges have not been laid – were suspended June 28, before being fired July 10.

Only after the Free Press contacted the daycare for comment was a parent meeting hastily called and the allegations stated publicly for the first time.

"It’s disgusting. It’s maddening. You feel betrayed. You drop your child off and you expect to pick them up the way you dropped them off. I’m just at a loss for words," one father, who asked not to be named, told the Free Press.

Free Spirits Child Care Centre’s board of directors has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

The Free Press has obtained an audio recording of the parents meeting Tuesday, during which a letter from local CFS officials was read aloud, outlining allegations "regarding the treatment of children in the daycare facility" were first brought to the board's attention April 27.

"Due to the concerning nature of the allegations and what was witnessed, the agency is recommending that (employee one) and (employee two) be suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation," an unnamed board member read to the parents in attendance.

"The agency is also requesting... (employee three) be suspended or an independent supervisor be brought in to supervise (them) when with the children and staff."

'It’s disgusting. It’s maddening. You feel betrayed. You drop your child off and you expect to pick them up the way you dropped them off. I’m just at a loss for words.'

The parents, many of them audibly angry, demanded to know whether the alleged abuse was physical or sexual in nature and whether their children had been targeted. One father asked if he should take his child to the hospital to be examined for sexual abuse. He received no direct response.

"All we know is what we’ve read off this letter. They might have to do interviews with your children. We don’t know. We can’t say if there was sexual abuse," one board member said.

"We were totally sick when we heard this. We didn’t want to go and tell everybody because we were trying to figure out how we were going to handle this. We’ve never had these kinds of incidents before. We were going to have a meeting Thursday, but because the media got wind of this – somebody notified the media."

One parent, who provided the recording to the Free Press and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said many children have been pulled out of the daycare — despite the fact the three people implicated have been fired.

The parent said it had been a difficult time for everyone with children who attend the centre, adding there are no other daycares in the community some 180 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

"First of all, it's shocking and it's hard to get sleep at night not knowing if your child is one of them. I guess it's just a feeling of uncertainty — scared. They said police would be giving the parents a call if they notice their child was one of them. So you're just kind of dreading and waiting for that phone call," the parent said.

On Wednesday, Free Spirits Child Care Centre posted a want ad on the Peguis First Nation website, seeking two child-care assistants "to provide care and education to all the children enrolled in daycare. To be a role model for all children at work and in the community."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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