Closure of Chilliwack childcare centre linked to RCMP shooting of domestic assault suspect – Chilliwack Progress | #schoolshooting

The sudden closure of a Chilliwack childcare centre this week is linked to an alleged domestic incident involving the centre’s owner, The Chilliwack Progress has learned.

The ex-husband of the woman who runs the Chilliwack Child Growth Society was shot by RCMP near the Vedder River in January, an incident that is under investigation by B.C.’s police watchdog.

Dozens of parents were left scrambling to find childcare after staff at the Chilliwack Child Growth Society sent a letter to parents on March 25 stating the centre would be closed as of March 29. That letter was also posted on the centre’s door.

Sign in the window of the Chilliwack Child Growth Society location on Vedder Road on March 26, 2021. Staff who had been continuing to work without direction from the owner told parents on March 25 that as of March 29 they could no longer keep the pre-school open. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress.)

The non-profit Montessori centre’s CEO, Amber Bardwell, posted her own letter on March 26 on the centre’s Facebook page pointing to personal struggles with her ex-husband’s mental health issues.

“I have unfortunately come to a point where the personal and professional damage caused by my ex-husband could possible have reached the unrepairable point,” she wrote.

Asked to clarify her position on the closure of the centre and its impact on parents and staff, Bardwell sent a long missive, written by her friend Anette Boulet, about her history over 20 years in Montessori education, the history of the Child Growth Society, and details on her husband’s struggles with mental health that culminated in an alleged assault on her on Jan. 12.

“It very scary moment she was able to escape and call for help. His mental state was so altered he continued to threaten her and stated he wanted to destroy everything in her life and so much that it was obvious he was not right. Amber came to my house and waited for the police to find him,” Boulet wrote. “Just an hour later he was repeatedly shot by the RCMP with near fatal injuries he was in a coma and enduring multiple life-saving surgeries.”

Both the RCMP and later the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) issued press releases that day regarding the incident.

The RCMP reported that at 7 a.m. there was a report of a man threatening a woman. Shortly after 8:30 a.m. an officer located the suspect in his vehicle in the Lickman Road parking lot on the Vedder River. When approached, Mounties report he had a weapon and the man was shot.

The IIO, which is the civilian-led agency responsible for investigations into incidents of death or serious harm that may have been the result of a police officer, now has conduct of the investigation.

Charged with four counts related to an alleged domestic assault that day is 40-year-old David Jordan Bardwell. He faces two counts of uttering threats, and one count each of assault by choking and assault causing bodily harm.

David Bardwell’s last court appearance was March 23 and is next due in court April 27. Bardwell was convicted of assault with a weapon in a domestic incident nearly 20 years ago in Invermere.

As for the Montessori school, Boulet wrote that Amber Bardwell did her best to run the centre while her husband recovered but the work was too much given staffing shortages. Some paycheques were delayed, which led to staff shutting the facility down last week.

“I know Amber will pull through this and make the best decision possible,” Boulet wrote. “In the meantime, I hope all staff and families involved can take a moment to realize she went through something no one could have done and remember the amazing mother, kind boss and loving wife she has always been.”

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Chilliwack RCMP at the scene of a police incident after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Chilliwack RCMP at the scene of a police incident after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

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