A man from Assiniboia, Sask., whose home was a licensed home daycare, is facing 13 total sex crime charges after an investigation into several sexual assaults of minors that allegedly occurred years ago, RCMP say.
Police arrested Richard John Dyke, 46, earlier this week after searching his home.
Court documents obtained by CBC News suggest most of the crimes of which he is accused happened multiple times over the better part of a decade in several small southern Saskatchewan communities.
Dyke appeared in Moose Jaw provincial court Wednesday and was remanded in custody. He is scheduled to return to court Dec. 14 for a bail hearing.
"My heart goes out to the families and the kids who have been impacted by this — and the parents who are certainly being left wondering what may or may not have happened to their children when they have left someone with a trusted individual in a daycare," said Lisa Miller, executive director of the Regina and Area Sexual Assault Centre.
RCMP started its investigation in early November after receiving a report of a historic sexual assault. Investigators determined three boys younger than 12 were sexually assaulted in the mid-2010s, according to an RCMP news release issued late Tuesday night.
RCMP started investigating in early November after receiving a report of a historic sexual assault. Investigators determined three boys younger than 12 were sexually assaulted in the mid-2010s, police say. (CBC)
Court records show Dyke doesn't have a criminal record, but they allege frequent abuse from 2014 to 2021.
RCMP, with help from the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation Unit, executed a search warrant Monday at his residence in Assiniboia, a town about 135 kilometres southwest of Regina. Investigators found a home-based daycare operated there, RCMP say.
Court records suggest he didn't run the daycare.
Dyke was charged with three counts each of sexual assault, sexual interference and making sexually explicit material available to a person under the age of 16. He was also charged with two counts of invitation to sexual touching and one count each of voyeurism and possessing child pornography, police say.
Dyke is accused of secretly recording children under 16 in a place of privacy for sexual purposes.
Information contained in the court documents suggests he videotaped children in the bathroom of his wife's daycare in Assiniboia for the past year and a half and that before that, he allegedly recorded children under his wife's care in the bathroom of their homes in Coronach and Swift Current for up to 7 years.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
RCMP said they are not certain whether there are more victims.
Saskatchewan Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill says his ministry took immediate actions after learning about the allegations. (CBC / Radio-Canada)
Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill was "deeply concerned" about the allegations, he said in a statement Wednesday. His ministry took immediate action to place the family child-care home's license on hold after learning of the police charges.
The ministry will help families find alternative child care where possible, Cockrill said.
Victim services will also be reaching out to families to offer support, information and referrals to services, he added.
Several stakeholders told CBC News that childhood sexual abuse is pervasive throughout Canada.
Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada, a national charity that advocates for children and youth, called it a public health crisis.
Austin referred to the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, a federal survey conducted every five years. The latest survey suggested nearly one in 10 Canadians experienced sexual abuse before they turned 15 years old, according to a Statistics Canada report released last year.
"Far too many of our kids experience sexual abuse in the early years of life," Austin said.
"A case like this brings to light how tragic it is when our children are affected by these issues and the role that we all play, as parents and community members, in keeping our kids safe."
The recent arrest in Assiniboia could be a "very bittersweet moment" for the victims and their families, she said, because it's an opportunity to get justice, but it could also bring back trauma — and possibly shame.
It's important that the victims have access to mental health supports, she added.
Lisa Miller, Regina and Area Sexual Assault Centre executive director, says people have a duty to protect children from abuse. (CBC)
There is a general reluctance to address child abuse, but that's exacerbated in smaller communities because accusing a neighbour could fracture relationships, said Miller, of the Regina and Area Sexual Assault Centre.
"It is very complex, but we need to be airing on the side of safety of children," Miller said.
"We need to start saying we're ready to deal with this."
Austin and Miller each stressed that people have a duty to protect children and report abuse immediately.
Complaints about physical pain, speaking uncharacteristically, behaving more sexually and having trouble sleeping are among potential signals of abuse that children and youth may show, Austin said.
Both women also encouraged parents to teach their children at an early age to name their body parts, and speak with them about appropriate boundaries and recognizing instincts.
In those conversations, parents must also let their children know that they are safe to talk to, Miller said.
"That means that if your kid does come to you with something that is difficult to hear, that you stay calm and loving, and you let them know that it wasn't their fault," Miller said.