05/11/2015 03:12 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Parents want tougher penalties for West Island daycare where daughter was victim of sex crime

Danny Carroll and Jennifer van Rantwyk want tougher penalties for a West Island home daycare where their four year-old daughter was the victim of a sexual crime.

The teenager who committed the crime pleaded guilty to gross indecency, but the parents say the daycare where it happened has received only a slap on the wrist.

The four year-old told her father about the abuse last October 20th, the day it happened. The girl had been attending that daycare for two years.

"She said to me 'Daddy if I tell you the truth I won't get in trouble, right?' I said 'of course', and she told me she was locked in the bathroom and sexually assaulted by a teenager who was visiting the daycare that day," Carroll said.

Daycare broke the rules

Carroll immediately called the police, and filed a complaint with the office of the regional coordinator requesting the daycare be shut down.

The 13 year-old visitor later pleaded guilty to charges of gross indecency.

The regional coordinator who investigated concluded that the daycare operator had left three children unattended in the basement while she was preparing their lunch, which is a violation of the law.

In a letter, the coordinator concluded that the incident was serious, and that the daycare operator "had contravened article 100 of the RSGEE in leaving the children unattended in the basement. In doing so, she put their safety and well-being in danger."

After that, new safety measures were put in place at the daycare.  The daycare operator signed an engagement pledging that the 13 year-old who pleaded guilty would never be in the presence of the children while the daycare was open.

Other parents not told about incident

That was not enough for Danny Carroll.

"The daycare is still operating and its doors are open. The parents of the other eight children there are not aware of what happened. They're still sending their kids to a daycare where the operator has clearly demonstrated negligence," Carroll said.

After the 13 year-old pleaded guilty, Carroll and van Rantwyk asked the regional coordinator to reconsider their complaint. The request was refused. The parents were told it was too late to review the decision, and that while what happened to their daughter was serious and against the law, the crime itself was not committed by the daycare operator.

Home daycares subject to different rules

The system considers this to be a private matter.

While home daycares are subsidized by the government, they are not subject to the same rules as public daycares.  Complaints and inspection reports are confidential, and not available to the public on the family ministry's website.

Nathalie Bigras is a professor and researcher who's been studying daycares in Quebec for years.

Bigras said this incident exposes weaknesses in the system.

"It's as if home daycares aren't like other daycares. They're not subject to the same rules, laws or consequences," Bigras said.

"We have been asking for years for better controls and better training in home daycares, and each time we are told 'no' because home daycare operators are considered as freelancers."

Parents want government to act

Carroll and van Rantwyk are now directly asking the government to intervene.

"If it was their job to explain to my daughter what happened, what would they say? There has to be someone responsible for our children. I wish the family ministry could explain to me who was responsible for neglecting my child that day," van Rantwyk said.

"We've been victimized at each step of the process," Carroll said.

"I ask myself, are the coordinator's office and the ministry there to protect our children, or to protect the daycaresand the daycare operators?  From what we've seen, they are there to protect the daycares."

Van Rantwyk has quit her job to stay home with her daughter until she's ready to attend kindergarten.