Daycare operator sentenced to 20 months in jail over 2017 death of toddler Baby Mac

Baby Mac was 16 months old when he was believed to have choked on an electrical cord while at the Olive Branch daycare in East Vancouver. (Shelley Sheppard - image credit)
Baby Mac was 16 months old when he was believed to have choked on an electrical cord while at the Olive Branch daycare in East Vancouver. (Shelley Sheppard - image credit)

A Vancouver daycare operator has been sentenced to 20 months in jail and 12 months probation for failing to provide the necessaries of life for nine children — including Baby Mac, the toddler who died in 2017 while under Susy Yasmine Saad's care.

Macallan Wayne Saini, known as Baby Mac, was 16 months old when he died at Saad's unlicensed and unregistered Olive Branch daycare.

There is a publication ban on the names of the other children involved in the case.

A lawsuit filed in 2018 by Baby Mac's mother against Saad and Vancouver Coastal Health says the toddler was believed to have died when he was left unattended and choked on an electrical cord on Jan. 18, 2017.

B.C. Supreme Court heard on Wednesday that a set of string lights was dangling over one of three playpens Saad had set up in a third-floor napping room.

Justice Catherine Wedge said, according to interviews with police, Saad had left Baby Mac unattended in the playpen closest to the string lights for over an hour after putting him down to sleep.

Saad was charged in 2020 after a lengthy police investigation and pleaded guilty last April.

Wedge said Saad deliberately deceived the parents who entrusted their children to her care and executed an elaborate scheme to get around B.C. child-care legislation to make more money at her daycare.

Saad was handcuffed by a sheriff before being led out of the courtroom after sentencing.

John Sheppard
John Sheppard

Under B.C.'s Community Care and Assisted Living Act, unlicensed child-care operators are only allowed to care for two children at a time and can be fined up to $10,000 a day for violations.

Olive Branch daycare closed following the death of Baby Mac.

Baby Mac's parents, Shelley Sheppard and Chris Saini, attended Wednesday's sentencing hearing, and Sheppard struggled to hold back her emotions as Wedge described what had happened to her son.

Sheppard and Saini previously told CBC News how Macallan would fill a room with joy and curiosity. They shared a written statement Monday afternoon, describing the process as excruciatingly long and thanking first responders, Vancouver police, Crown attorneys, victims services and everyone who worked on the case.

"No punishment will ever bring our sweet boy back to us," it said. "We feel this sentence falls years short ... Knowing that the law has to operate within its abilities, we are disgusted by the options of justice available."

The parents said they regret that Mac will never score a goal in soccer, have a sleepover with friends, learn to clean a fish or experience the thrill of a first kiss.

"This makes us sad beyond words," they said. "We love, cherish and miss our sweet and loving boy Mac every day."

Josh Grant/CBC
Josh Grant/CBC

Longtime childcare advocate Sharon Gregson said Monday there is no sentence that would do Mac, or his family,  justice.

"There couldn't be a punishment that is adequate enough for what's happened to Baby Mac," she told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

"It's a signal to our politicians and to all of us that we have to do better for children, we have to have a better childcare system."

Gregson, who has campaigned for $10-a-day daycare, acknowledged that hundreds more childcare spaces have opened up over the past five years, but said there's still a long way to go to ensure families have access to safe, affordable care when they require it.