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Police investigate allegations against staff at Calgary daycare


Around two months after being closed for health violations, an inner city daycare in Calgary has now had its licence capacity reduced after several recent inspections revealed two dozen non-compliance concerns.

Sunvalley Kids Montessori Daycare on 2 Street S.W. was temporarily closed by Alberta Health Services in February, after an inspection uncovered nearly two dozen health violations, including cockroaches in the kitchen.

Although the centre was allowed to reopen, mouse droppings were found in the preschool and toddler room, according to the most recent AHS inspection on April 24.

A separate probe by the province also discovered 24 non-compliance concerns between April 8 and 25. There have been a total of 28 violations since April of 2023, which doesn’t include the violations found by AHS.

“The violations are concerning as well as the span of time that they’ve taken over. There has been a considerable amount of resources at this location to bring this centre up to speed and it seems like a lot of those issues are motivated by parent complaints,” said Susan Cake with Child Care Now Alberta, a non-profit group that advocates for publicly-funded childcare.

“So, if parents weren’t complaining, I don’t know that we’d be finding those violations.”

The violations under the Early Learning and Child Care Act included failing to follow health and safety requirements, minimum staffing levels and ratios to children, reporting incidents in a correct manner to the director and child guidance concerns.

“Child guidance is a category violation where essentially the daycare is not interacting with children in a manner that is safe or appropriate for the children. So, when you see a violation like this then it’s an indicator usually the children are not receiving quality childcare,” said Cake.

Police investigate allegations against staff

Kris Chisholm, whose son attended the daycare, filed a complaint with the provincial authorities and the Calgary Police Service in early March.

He says he wanted to give the daycare the benefit of the doubt they’d resolved the issues leading to the AHS closure in February but began to worry about his three-year-old son’s safety after he came home with some bumps and bruises.

“He kept miming that a teacher had pulled him by an arm and that he was scared to go back,” he said.

Chisholm says a former employee reached out to him in late February and said she’d witnessed his son being “dragged across the room several times.”

That employee, Nazanin Salmasi, who is no longer working at the daycare, confirmed the same information to CTV News and posted about the troubling treatment of children in an online review.

Chisholm immediately pulled his son from the program and reported his concerns to the daycare, police and the province.

The Calgary Police Service confirmed it investigated the daycare, but no charges were laid.

“A thorough investigation was conducted by the Calgary Police Service and it was determined that no criminal offence occurred. The CPS has now turned the investigation over to the Calgary Child Delivery and Preventative Family Services.”

That’s the part of the provincial ministry which looks after daycare investigations and licencing.

The Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Trade, which oversees daycares in the province, responded to CTV News’ questions about Sunvalley in a statement.

“To ensure the safety of children attending the program, we continue to monitor the Sunvalley Kids Montessori program and the enforcement of the child safety plan which included temporarily reducing the program’s licenced capacity. Closing the program is not being considered at this time,” the province said.

The daycare owner, Max Nizamov, denies the allegations made against his staff, that he was ever made aware of them before they were made to police and believes the claims are the outcome of a disgruntled worker.

“There are processes when we deal with incident reports. Depending on severity, right? Notifying parents, bringing that to the director’s attention. It’s in writing. The teacher has to sign off on it. The director has to sign of on that. The parents have to sign off on it.”

Chisholm questions if those processes are followed, citing a recent inspection report that found the daycare was non-compliant in reporting incidents in a correct manner to the director.

“You feel like you failed as a parent when you find out that somewhere that you chose and brought your kid every day was an unsafe place and compromised his happiness,” he said.

Cake says childcare inspections are limited on what they can find concerning serious allegations.

“Usually you’re not going to catch child abuse in an inspection because when people are being watched at their workplace they tend to do the best that they can. That’s why we sometimes see things caught that seem minor but they may represent larger issues,” she said.

Pattern of non-compliance

Inspections at a second Sunvalley Kids Montessori in Acadia, which is also owned by Nizamov, resulted in 18 non-compliance concerns since February 2023, with the most recent on March 27, 2024. 

Of particular concern for childcare advocates is non-compliance of child guidance which is described in the inspection as, “Inflict physical punishment, verbal or physical degradation or emotional deprivation.”

“To me as a parent your heart just drops because you know a child was not safe,” said Cake.

She says the violations at both locations under the same ownership point to a pattern of problems and what role the province plays in enforcing regulations at licensed facilities.

“This would suggest that there isn’t really a cost to these providers when it comes to violations. They would get caught and told to rectify it but if they keep being out of compliance there is no real consequences,” she said.

Under the province’s Early Learning and Child Care Act, all licensed child-care programs are inspected twice annually. Any program found in non-compliance is monitored and inspected until it returns to compliance.

There are no fines for programs found in non-compliance.

Chisholm is disappointed and frustrated with the outcome of both the police and provincial investigations.

“There’s not enough ramifications. There is no feeling of justice. The place is still open, they still have kids there.”

“The bar is way too low,’ he said. “I don’t know how much lower the bar has to be to get shut down.”

Nizamov is adamant that the non-compliance concerns have been addressed at both facilities, that all staff have been given additional training and that the centres are now meeting all requirements for a licensed facility.

“We move along with anticipation so that will allow us to be more proactive and anticipate to not allow these things to happen in the first place,” he said.

“We’ve made changes everywhere. We’ve made improvements for parents, we’ve made improvements for teachers.”

Anyone with concerns about a child-care program in Alberta can call Child Care Connect at 1-844-644-5165. Top Stories

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