A two-year-old Toronto girl died in October from a rare liver disorder, which police suspect was caused by ingesting a variety of drugs.
Jeromy Bellfontaine first saw the toddler at daycare and suspected he was suffering from symptoms of drug intoxication after a few days, his lawyer said.
“He became concerned enough to make a phone call to the local hospital,” said Daniel Scott.
Jeromy Bellfontaine had a bead on the toddler since his father was a daycare worker, and Bellfontaine took it upon himself to nix potential dangerous substances he may have consumed, Scott said.
“He also made sure his father wasn’t there,” Scott added.
The revelation comes amid a backdrop of concern over illicit drug use among young people.
Toronto police are investigating a number of deaths that have occurred recently after ingesting illicit drugs. The same month as the toddler’s death, that city’s police chief, Mark Saunders, said there had been 13 overdose deaths by mid-November.
No charges have been filed against Jeromy Bellfontaine or his father, Sherrod Bellfontaine, but the SPCA and child welfare authorities are looking into the toddler’s death.
Saunders told reporters that he had reviewed a video of the toddler’s final moments.
Jeromy Bellfontaine was treated at a nearby hospital when he complained of nausea, vomiting and jaundice. He was later transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, where he died, officials said.
Jeromy Bellfontaine is an apparent first-time drug user. A video from a friend shows the child playing with other children in a park at the time of his death.
Police said that they are investigating a number of drug-related deaths. In some instances, they believe there is a link to an overdose.
“We are attempting to communicate with the family of the deceased to ascertain what exact substances they were using and whether there was any sort of an underlying medical condition,” said Det Insp Diane Voyer.
The toddler’s mother has claimed she learned of her son’s death from her husband on Facebook. The elder Bellfontaine made no mention of any drugs, Scott said.
Jeromy Bellfontaine attended the local public school until he was 18 months old, his father told the Toronto Star. He appeared to be an “amazing kid”, Bellfontaine added.
His death comes as the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that about 16 per cent of 4,566 teenage drug users interviewed across Canada between September 2018 and February 2019 said they had used opioids.
“This report shows a worrying increase in substance use among Canadians ages 15 to 19, with demand for opioids among young people especially high,” said Ihsaan Gardee, CEO of Amnesty International Canada.