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No charges for North Bay, Ont., school bus driver accused of sexually assaulting 3-year-old student

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Warning: This story contains allegations of sexual assault against a child, which may be disturbing to some readers.

A North Bay, Ont., mother is shocked after being told no charges will be laid against a school bus driver accused of sexually assaulting her now four-year-old daughter on her first day of school.

CTVNewsNorthernOntario.ca interviewed the mother, who we are not naming to protect the identity of her daughter, over the phone.

The single mother arrived at the school at 3:10 p.m. Sept. 5 to pick her daughter up from her first day of junior kindergarten in September -- just days before her fourth birthday-- only to learn she was mistakenly put on the bus.

She said she was told they weren't sure which bus she was on or which area it was in.

Initially, she said she was told no one could get a hold of the bus driver, but then was informed the driver would loop back around at the end of his route.

The girl was finally returned more than two hours after leaving school.

"I could tell something was wrong right away," the mom said.

As a young Indigenous woman, she said she has already taught her daughter that her body belongs to her and there are private areas no one is allowed to touch.

Her daughter was really upset and kept telling her mom, "I can't tell you, I am going to get in trouble," but finally opened up several days later, saying the bus driver touched her genitals.

The mom said she reported it to the police right away and agreed to let her young child be interviewed by an officer alone, not once, but twice.

"The North Bay Police Service (NBPS) takes a victim-centred approach in all criminal investigations," North Bay police told CTV News in an interview.

"Members of the NBPS who have been specifically trained in forensic child interviewing conduct interviews at the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre in North Bay. The CYAC provides a physically and psychologically safe environment for children, youth and non-offending caregivers to be interviewed."

In the days and weeks after the alleged assault, the little girl had to be brought in to the hospital several times and treated for back-to-back urinary tract infections, the mother said.

'I'VE BEEN WAITING TO MEET YOU'

The next time the little girl got on the bus, before the little girl opened up about the abuse and two days after the incident, her mom said the same driver was behind the wheel to pick her up.

"The man looked at her -- and I'll never forget the look that she gave me, she looked at me with such a strange look, like so strange like something was wrong right away – and he said to her 'I've been waiting to meet you,'" the mother said.

"And I found that odd because he met her on the first day of school."

The transportation company responsible, Alouette, told CTV News in an email it "fully cooperated with the police investigation, providing all necessary information and assistance as required."

"As an organization the Safety of the children we transport is our number one priority," Alouette said.

"In addition to the criminal record check, school bus drivers are also required to undergo a vulnerable sector search (VSS), which is a separate criminal check that includes a check of the pardoned sexual offender database."

Background checks and training have been completed for all drivers, the company said.

No response was provided by the bus company asking if the driver is still employed with Alouette following the allegations and the fact no charges will be laid.

'THE WORST THING I COULD HAVE POSSIBLY HEARD'

On Nov. 3, nearly two months later, the mother said she got a call from police and was told "the worst things (she) could have possibly heard."

After the Crown attorney reviewed the case, no charges would be laid due to the unlikelihood it would be brought to trial.

"As this investigation involves a minor, we are limited in what information we can release. The NBPS has conducted an investigation into the allegations that were reported to us," police said.

"As a result of that investigation, no criminal charges were laid. We cannot comment further on this incident."

CTV News asked the North Bay Crown attorney's office asking why no charges were being laid and was referred to the Ontario Ministry of Attorney General.

"It appears that these would best be directed at local police. We wouldn’t be able to respond here," the ministry replied in an email.

STARTED 'RAISING HELL'

Upon hearing the devastating news that no charges would be laid, the mother decided to share her story on social media to warn other parents.

"Everybody failed her, me staying quiet is not going to happen now," she said.

"Two officers came to my door and cautioned me about what I was saying online."

She is now advocating to have video cameras installed inside buses along with GPS tracking systems.

"There is so much that can be done," the mom said.

"It's about so much more than my daughter; it is about protecting all of the children."

She organized a protest outside of the North Bay courthouse last month to bring attention to the matter and intends to hold another one soon and launch a petition.

'FOLLOWING HER LEAD'

The little girl has had a hard time getting on the bus since the incident and sometimes has night terrors, the mom said.

She has been working with the local child abuse advocacy centre for support.

Now, she has a new driver and is comfortable taking the school bus as long as he is the one driving.

"I really believe in following her lead," the mom said.

"I want her to feel comfortable and knows what is going to make her happy and feel safe."

She said she has filed a civil suit against the bus line and school board, but wouldn't have even considered it if someone had apologized. The allegations in the lawsuit echo the allegations against the bus driver that the mother told CTVNewsNortherOntario.ca.

Resources for sexual assault survivors in Canada

If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual assault or trauma, the following resources are available to support people in crisis:

If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, you should call 911.

A full list of sexual assault centres in Canada that offer information, advocacy and counselling can be found at ReeseCommunity.com. Resources in your community can be found by entering your postal code. 

Helplines, legal services and locations that offer sexual assault kits in Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia can be found here.

National Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

24-hour crisis line: 1-416-597-8808 

Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010 

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366

Sexual misconduct support for current or former members of the Armed Forces: 1-844-750-1648

Read about your rights as a victim here.

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