Baby left in frigid car by parents out at club

Father unrepentant, Quebec City social workers launch probe

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

MONTREAL — A man and woman left their seven-month-old baby in the car in near-freezing temperatures while they went out to a popular night spot in Quebec City on the weekend, sparking investigations by police and child-protection services.

The baby was returned to the care of the couple, who may face criminal charges.

A passerby spotted the infant crying in the locked car and called police at 11:15 p.m. on Sunday. The baby was wearing socks and a woollen sweater, but no mittens.

The temperature had dipped to near zero.

"You're not allowed to leave a child under 7 unattended in a car for even one minute," said Sandra Dion of the Quebec City police.

Police don't know how long the baby's parents were away, but when officers touched the hood and tailpipe of the car, they were cold, suggesting the vehicle had been there for a while. A towing service unlocked the car to free the child. Meanwhile, officers tracked the parents down to a café-theatre in Quebec's touristy old town, where they were enjoying a drink with friends.

When officers confronted the baby's 26-year-old father, who was seated at a table near the bar, he was unrepentant.

"He became very arrogant," Constable Dion said. "He insulted the police and criticized their work and said he behaved that way [left his baby in the car] all the time - for him it was normal."

A singer-songwriter was performing at the venue, the Petit Champlain theatre, although police don't know whether the couple took in the 8 p.m. show. A staffer said yesterday that it's rare for customers to attend the theatre for drinks without seeing the performance.

The father has been fined $151 for leaving a child under 7 unattended in the car, and $200 for insulting a police officer, Constable Dion said.

Police say the couple could face criminal charges. Police also alerted child-welfare services before returning the child to the custody of the couple.

A child-protection official said social workers will probe the child's living conditions and evaluate whether the baby should be withdrawn from the parents' care.

"We'll check to make sure that the parents are able to properly assume their responsibilities or not," said Daniel Côté, director of youth protection services in Quebec City.

"The younger the child, the smaller the child, the more vulnerable he is," Mr. Côté said.

"To leave him alone without supervision is behaviour that leaves the child open to danger."