It has been nearly four years since Anaïs Perlot’s life changed forever.
On June 22, 2018, her six-month-old son Cassius died after being left inside a vehicle for most of the day. It happened on a Friday.
For Perlot, it seems like yesterday and yet, at the same time, she says it’s been an eternity.
It was a call to 911 made around 5:35 p.m. that day that alerted the police to the tragedy.
Police say the call was made after Cassius’ father showed up at his son’s daycare center and was informed by staff that the child had not been brought in that day.
The baby was found nearby in the father’s vehicle.
At the time, police said the father’s first reaction was to go and check in his vehicle where he found his unconscious son.
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The baby had been inside the vehicle since this morning.
According to police, Cassius’ father had gone straight to work, forgetting that his son was in the backseat.
A coroner investigating the incident ruled the death accidental in a January 2021 report.
Mourning his son
Perlot said what followed was a “traumatic period of grief”.
“I was just thinking about surviving,” Perlot said in an interview this week, recalling how much of a daily struggle it was.
“How can I deal with this and not be mad at life?” she asked. “How can I find the strength to still be me, to continue to enjoy life, to teach my daughter that life is worth living?”
Perlot said she is no longer in a relationship with Cassius’ father, but they co-parent their daughter.
It’s only now, with time and a lot of hard work, that Perlot says she’s started to feel better.
And as the upcoming anniversary of Cassius’ death stirs up painful memories, Perlot finally feels ready to speak out.
She tries to raise awareness about the problem of children left in vehicles in hopes of maybe helping others avoid a similar tragedy.
“I couldn’t bear to find out on the news that, you know, another baby lost this life,” she said.
What happened to Perlot’s son is rare, but there are recorded cases.
A study first published in Pediatrics Child & Health in 2019 and available on the National Library of Medicine website indicates that an average of 37 children die of hyperthermia inside parked vehicles each year in the United States. These data are not published in Canada.
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Heat stroke or hyperthermia occurs when a body overheats and loses its ability to cool itself.
Children are particularly vulnerable because their thermoregulatory system is not as efficient as that of an adult. According to the No Heat Stroke website, children’s body temperature heats up three to five times faster than that of adults.
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The Pediatrics Child & Health The study notes that the majority of incidents, 55%, are due to caregivers forgetting the child, while 13% of cases occur after children have been intentionally left unattended inside. ‘a vehicle. Another 28% occurs when children ride in unlocked vehicles. The cause of the remaining four percent is unknown.
Perlot still has many questions about what exactly happened the day his son died.
She thinks a directive requiring childcare centers to alert parents when their child is absent – as they do in schools – could be a step in the right direction.
This was one of the recommendations contained in the coroner’s report on Cassius’ death.
Coroner Julie Blondin suggested that the Ministry of Families work with child care providers to implement an attendance and absence management system to quickly alert parents in the event of a child’s absence.
In an emailed statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Family Ministry said that unlike school where attendance is mandatory with a set schedule, childcare is determined by the daily needs of children. parents.
“It is the parent who determines the hours of presence and the time of arrival of his child”, wrote in French the director of communications Bryan St-Louis. “It is therefore up to the parent to notify the service provider as soon as possible of the absence of their child in accordance with the service agreement that they have previously concluded with the service provider.
St. Louis, however, said the ministry works to ensure child care providers are aware of best practices and to educate children left inside vehicles through newsletters.
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For its part, the No Heat Stroke website suggests making “look before you go” part of your routine every time you get out of the car.
Technological solutions are also being developed by car manufacturers to warn drivers when a child remains in the back seat of the vehicle and the driver is about to leave the vehicle.
In her report, Ms. Blondin also said that if it is not possible to equip new vehicles with such systems, Transport Canada could study the possibility of developing new safety standards for equipping car seats. for children of a safety device to detect children left unattended in a vehicle. She pointed out that such a system was used in Italy.
Transport Canada told Global News that the safety of all road users remains a priority.
“The department is working with all levels of government and industry partners to implement safety measures to strengthen and improve road safety and mitigate risks for all Canadians,” wrote the Minister. Transport Canada spokesperson, Hicham Ayoun.
He said the department was already looking into the issue of carers forgetting children in vehicles before Blondin’s report.
“Transport Canada is aware that some manufacturers offer systems that allow, among other things, to warn the driver when a child remains in the back seat of the vehicle while the driver is about to leave the vehicle,” continued Ayoun.
“The department has analyzed the availability of some of these detection systems which give an alert if a child is left unattended in a vehicle. According to our observations, to date, no sensor is perfectly efficient to perform this task flawlessly.
Ayoun said that ultimately it is the responsibility of the parent or caregiver to ensure the well-being of the children.
This is a message that Perlot wants to convey, especially as summer approaches. She wants parents to be on high alert.
“For parents to be vigilant and if someone feels unable to care for a child, it’s a parent’s responsibility to find another way.”
— with files from Anne Leclair, Kalina Laframboise and Gloria Henriquez of Global News
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