Up to all adults to look out for kids

It’s a sad state of our society that when we hear about tragedies that happen to children, though we feel disgust and sorrow, we’ve become immune to surprise.

Recently, on the very same news day that two little girls froze to death after being left outside all night long in the Saskatchewan Prairies, another was left lying face down in a freezing cold outdoor cement stairwell in a parking garage in Toronto. The oldest of these children was three, her sister, one year, and the baby left to her own defences, just eight months old.

These crimes against children are nothing short of unconscionable.


We can’t stop every tragedy, but in the latter case, there are ways that this situation could have been avoided.

In the Saskatchewan incident, the details are still sketchy as to what exactly happened. All that is certain is that the father of these two little girls took them out into the cold night air in nothing but T-shirts and diapers as the wind chill hit -50 C. Where he was taking them, why, and why their mother wasn’t around is all speculation at the moment — but what does it matter?

Anyone with any common sense, alcohol-depleted or otherwise, knows not to go out at night, in the dead of winter, without being properly dressed. To forget a scarf is one thing, but to take your babies outside in nothing but diapers?!? It’s beyond comprehension.

Though the child in the second case is fortunately alive, the situation is even more upsetting. The fact is, it’s a matter of child abandonment, and shockingly, Canada’s justice system has little in place to deal with this. Though child abandonment is outlined in the Criminal Code as an offence carrying a maximum of a two-year sentence, these cases are rarely seen in court.

What we need is something like the Safely Surrendered Baby Law which was passed in California in 2000. Under this law, desperate parents can bring their infants to hospital emergency rooms, where the baby will receive medical treatment, without the parents being arrested for abandoning their baby. In some counties across the state, fire departments, county clinics, and certain medical offices are also designated drop-off places.

Most babies who are abandoned are done so almost immediately after birth, and usually because the mother was in severe emotional distress. Rather than compromising the babies’ health and welfare by dumping them in public washrooms, dumpsters or stairwells, this California law aims to protect these unwanted babies from being hurt or even killed.

Before I became a mother myself, it was difficult to hear stories of abandoned and abused children. Now, it’s unbearable. I can’t help but think of my own children and my heart physically aches for these tiny people.

It’s our responsibility as concerned and caring adults to watch out for any and all children who come across our path. They need our help.


Lisi Tesher is a freelance writer and photographer living in Toronto with her husband and two children. She cares passionately about social injustices, children’s health and education, and diversity.

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