Police in Trois-Rivières, Que., have opened a criminal investigation into a daycare worker who allegedly gave melatonin to children without their parents' consent, Radio-Canada confirmed on Tuesday.
The daycare educator at Les P'tits Samouraïs daycare in Trois-Rivières — about 140 kilometres east of Montreal — is said to have served drinks containing diluted melatonin to children in her group.
The establishment notified parents in a letter sent out on Saturday. According to the daycare, the educator in question no longer works there.
The daycare's general manager, Stéphanie Beaudry, told Radio-Canada she wanted to reassure the parents of the 130 children who frequent the daycare but could not comment further since an investigation is underway.
Families Minister Suzanne Roy told Radio-Canada in a statement that the ministry she oversees will also open an investigation.
"This situation is obviously inconceivable. The health and safety of our children is a priority," she said.
Melatonin not a first resort
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain during evenings and at night when luminosity is low to help with the body's sleep cycle, explained pharmacist Michaël Tourigny.
It can be purchased over the counter in the form of pills, drops or gummies and can be used to help children and adults sleep. While Tourigny told Radio-Canada it does not represent a danger if used properly, it should not be used for a child who is having trouble napping during the day.
"It's not the recommended first line of defence if a child has trouble sleeping," he said.
The pharmacist instead recommends practising good sleeping habits like eliminating screen time in the hour leading up to a nap or bedtime and favouring activities like reading.
According to Radio-Canada, the daycare educator was also an employee of the municipality of Saint-Barnabé, 35 kilometres west of Trois-Rivières and worked in the sports and recreation department. Saint-Barnabé city councillors are expected to meet Tuesday evening to discuss the next steps.