More child-care options needed

B.C. Supreme Court ruling that leaving a child under the age of 10 home alone is unacceptable highlights need for affordable care.

With so much of the focus on the election over the past 78 days, you would be forgiven if you didn’t hear about a recent provincial court ruling involving a mother and her eight-year-old son.

Last month, B.C. Supreme Court ruled that leaving a child under the age of 10 at home alone is unacceptable, regardless of the length of time.

The case began after the province’s Ministry of Children and Family Development discovered earlier this year that a woman in Terrace, who was separated from her husband, had been leaving her eight-year-old son home alone between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. each day while she was at work.

According to court documents, a social worker then visited the home and informed the mother, who was not identified, that a child under the age of 10 could not be left unsupervised. The case then went before a provincial court, where the social worker argued “children who are eight years of age do not have the cognitive ability to be left unsupervised,” and the judge ruled in favour of an interim supervision order against the mother. She later appealed the case, arguing that her son was mature enough to be home alone. In September, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision.

It is worth noting B.C. does not have a minimum age for leaving a child alone for a short period of time and the Criminal Code of Canada states that “Everyone who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under the age of 10 years” can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The people who will be affected most by the B.C. Supreme Court’s recent ruling are low-income, single parents and, while there are options such as after-school care, it can become expensive, especially for those with multiple children.

In addition to the cost, some parents work more than one job to make ends meet and after-school care programs don’t always meet work schedules.

With a severe daycare shortage and an ever-increasing cost of living, both the provincial and federal governments must work together to create a long-term plan to ensure there are affordable daycare spaces and prevent the law from substituting one victim for another.

 

–Nanaimo News Bulletin