by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
March 28, 2009
Police are investigating an incident in Calgary where a man was arrested for having left his 21 month-old son unattended in a car for over six hours while he gambled in a casino. The child was found after he was heard crying and rescued from the locked car by local firemen while the temperature outside was approximately -8C.
Firefighters retrieved the boy from his car seat in the back of the car in the Silver Dollar Casino's parking lot just after midnight, responding to a call the child had been crying. A firefighter managed to pry open the from passenger door.
“As soon as they got in, the baby started reaching out to the firefighter,” said fire department public information officer, Jeff Budai.
The firefighter unbuckled the little boy from his car seat and carried him to the warm fire engine, where the toddler was given a little stuffed animal.
"In no time, they had him giggling. They entertained him for 10 or 15 minutes and then (the police) and EMS showed up," Budai said.
The 50 year-old father, who cannot be named because it would identify the toddler, allegedly covered the windows of the car so that the child would not be seen and occasionally left the casino to check on him. The child was found with no shoes and no socks on, and had vomited on himself. The man was arrested as he left the casino. The infant was apparently kept out of the father’s sight to avoid a conflict.
The Calgary man has been charged with child abandonment which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A Calgary and Area Child and Family Services spokesperson, Dawn Delaney, told the press that in cases where a child’s well-being is at risk, officials will attempt to first find a suitable member of the extended family to care of him or her. The outcome will be determined by the ongoing investigation as to what the father was doing in the casino for the six hours that he had neglected his child.
Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said officers are working with Calgary and Area Child and Family Services and still investigating to determine what the man had been doing for the six hours he was inside the casino.
“The little boy is safe and doing well,” said Delaney when asked about the child’s welfare. She told officials that in a case where immediate family cannot care for the child, he or she may be placed into foster care. “We will continue to work collaboratively to determine where the best placement is for this little guy.”
"The nature of addiction is that you make bad decisions and the object of desire supersedes everything else," said Robert Williams, who co-ordinates the Lethbridge Alberta Gaming Research Institute.
Five other incidents have been reported since 2006 where a child was abandoned, three of which were incidents where the children were left behind in vehicles.