The owners of one of downtown Whitehorse’s largest daycares said they had no choice but to suddenly shut down their business after the Canada Revenue Agency seized their assets, leaving dozens of parents scrambling to find alternative childcare services.
The Cheeky Monkey daycare at 406 Baxter St., which was licensed to take care of 47 children and had 12 employees, closed its doors Jan. 13 after parents picked up their children for the last time that evening.
In a joint phone interview Jan. 15, Cheeky Monkey owners Andi and Mike Worden said they were left with no alternatives.
“(The CRA) froze all my accounts and I can’t operate without money to operate a daycare,” Andi said, explaining that she’d been having ongoing issues with the federal agency and found out it had seized her assets the afternoon of Jan. 12. She declined to elaborate on what the CRA issues were.
“I’m doing the best I can… I had no choice. I’m going bankrupt because I have no choice,” she said. “I mean, right now I can’t even feed my own kids, how am I supposed to be providing food for everybody else’s?”
The couple is working on getting someone to take over the daycare and reopen under different management, Mike said, but at this point, it’s out of their hands. They also tried to get the CRA to release some of their assets so they could pay staff, he said, but to no avail.
“We did everything we could to keep it going and… the option wasn’t even on the table to keep it going, even for another 14 days,” he said. “…It’s a horrible situation. We wish we would have a little more time to work on the issues with the CRA and it didn’t happen.”
Former Cheeky Monkey employee Sarah McDiarmid said Andi individually told staff the news around lunchtime on Jan. 13.
“She just kind of came in and said, ‘Look, as of right now, at 5:30, the daycare will be shut down for personal reasons,’ and that’s about all we got,” McDiarmid said in an interview Jan. 15. Andi had seemed “pretty upset” earlier in the day, McDiarmid added, but other than that, staff had “no clue” that the daycare was going to be shut down.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “ … I was quite scared and honestly, I was a little mad just because we didn’t get that notice, because now I have to find a new job and all the rest of the staff had to find a new job and all of the parents and all of the kids (affected), it’s just an unfortunate situation.”
The rest of the day was “pretty tense,” McDiarmid said.
“You could see some of the staff were pretty stressed out and everybody was asking each other questions and … a few staff were crying and a few parents who were upset and crying and so it was a pretty emotional day, I think, for everybody,” she said.
“It was kind of sad to see the kids ask parents … ‘Mom, dad, why are we taking all of our stuff home?’”
Metal worker Molly Keizer, whose 20-month-old son Ben had been at Cheeky Monkey for 10 months, said she was notified about the daycare’s closure via a phone call the afternoon Jan. 13.
“(Andi) seemed very stressed out on the phone call and she was basically saying that she was done and wasn’t going to be running the daycare anymore, and so, effective immediately, we have no childcare,” Keizer said, adding that there was also an employee from the department of Health and Social Services (HSS) on the line to reassure parents the closure was not related to any risks to the welfare of their children.
The news, Keizer said, came with “no warning whatsoever” and left her “kind of in shock.”
“We never had a problem. The childcare has always been great, but it’s just shocking that that would just get yanked out from underneath you like that with no notice,” she said.
When her husband went to pick up their son that evening, Keizer said Andi, who appeared “very upset and stressed out,” told him the CRA had seized all of her lost assets and she wouldn’t be able to reimburse parents for the daycare fees they’d already paid. Keizer said she’d already paid the more than $800 monthly daycare fee for Ben for January, which is money she now considers lost.
“If her assets have been seized by Canada Revenue, what could you possibly do about it?” she said. “But if she knew she was in financial trouble, you’d think that you’d get some kind of warning or maybe she could have closed it down at the end of December so people didn’t pay her an extra $1,000 for the next month and then lose that money.”
Keizer added that while she was able to find a spot at another daycare for Ben — one where he’d been on a waitlist for two years — she feels bad for the other families who might not have been so lucky.
“It’s not just the money, it’s also that all of those families will be trying to compete for whatever’s available in the other daycares in town,” she said. “I don’t know. It’s crazy.”
Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living said Jan. 15 that Cheeky Monkey parents who were receiving subsidies will be getting their money back, and that the Child Care Services Unit may also be able to assist other parents financially as well. Affected parents are asked to call the unit at 867-667-3492.
Since the closure, Mike said, the Wordens have heard from several parents of children who stayed at Cheeky Monkey. While most of them have been understanding, he said, others have screamed at Andi and threatened the couple with lawsuits.
“Had we known this was coming down, like this was the way it was going to play out, we would have let everybody know it advance… We’re heartbroken and we’re apologetic for how the community’s going to view us after this,” he said.
Andi agreed, adding, “It was never our intent to screw anybody over.”
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com