Saskatoon non-profit group plans to create safe place to leave newborns

SASKATOON — The discovery of a dead infant in a Saskatoon recycling bin has prompted a non-profit agency to move ahead with its plan for a safe place for women to anonymously give up newborns.

Katelyn Roberts is executive director of Sanctum Care Group, which operates a home for pregnant women who are HIV positive or at-risk of having their babies apprehended because of addictions or homelessness.

The agency announced plans in September to offer a private space at the home where women could leave infants without having to provide identification.

Roberts says Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Social Services didn’t support the initiative and requested that it be put on hold to review whether the service was needed in the city.

Sanctum Care is still waiting for a decision but, in light of last week’s discovery, feels it’s time to move ahead on its own, Roberts says. She hopes the ministry will be supportive.

Police have said they believe the infant was a newborn and investigators are looking for the mother, who they say may be physically and emotionally vulnerable.

“We do know that mothers in distress sometimes unsafely abandon their children because they don’t feel that have any other option,” Roberts said Wednesday.

“Because there currently is no way in our city to safely and anonymously relinquish care of your child, we felt it necessary to fill that gap.”

Roberts said Sanctum Care is working hard to get the service available by next year. A woman would be able to place a baby inside a cradle located behind a door that is locked once it’s shut. An alarm would alert staff to an infant’s presence.

The baby would be assessed at a hospital and family services would be notified, Roberts said.

It’s considered a crime in Canada to abandon children in a way that exposes them to risk of injury or endangers their life.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the acquittal of a Saskatchewan woman who gave birth in a Walmart bathroom stall and left the newborn in a toilet.

April Halkett was found not guilty in 2009 of abandoning the baby boy two years earlier in the store in Prince Albert, Sask.

She testified at her trial that she didn’t know she was pregnant and left the store because she thought the child, who survived, was dead.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2019.

— By Stephanie Taylor in Regina

The Canadian Press

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