A bilateral agreement between the federal and provincial governments provides $ 45 million to the early childhood sector in Alberta. Major funding to revive the Alberta economy, but where are Francophones in this equation?
The correlation between the economic recovery and daycare centers is quite simple: “parents cannot go to work if they do not have access to daycare services”, clearly sums up Ms. Mireille Péloquin, Executive Director of the Federation of Francophone Parents of Alberta (FPFA). Despite the new tools that allow teleworking, working and keeping an eye on your children is difficult: “Often, the babysitter is the iPad, it’s the television, it’s the computer”.
In a press release from the Economic Development and Employability Network (RDÉE Canada), the organization said it hoped that “the Francophone early childhood sector will benefit from a substantial budget that will allow parents to obtain a care in the language of their choice ”.
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A budget for the Francophonie
$ 10 million is sort of the government’s response to this request. This amount will be devoted to programs so that Francophone and Aboriginal children can have access to services that reflect their cultures and languages.
Despite the 385 new places created, they are insufficient to meet the needs of all Francophone parents. The director of the FPFA nonetheless notes the ways in which this budget will promote childcare services in French.
Training courses, such as GRIT or L’Envol, are now offered in French and the threshold for parents to obtain subsidies has increased to $ 75,000 per year. But for Ms. Péloquin, there is a missing “link” that is essential to ensure the vitality and viability of this service. She notes that the province’s economic recovery is going “towards the parent and the workers, but not towards the operator”.
The GRIT program, acronym for Gretting Ready for Inclusion Today, will provide training to Francophone educators on the inclusion of children with challenges or from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“It’s the infrastructure that’s the problem”
A problem that the financing plan of 45 million dollars does not touch according to Mireille Péloquin. In some areas of the capital, the rent is $ 35 per square foot. “This is one of the reasons why in Alberta there is very little space for francophone daycare. “
In this wake, the FPFA is launching a new pilot project to support the creation of new home daycare services, but also to improve this type of already existing daycare.
Other initiatives exist. Some French-language schools accommodate daycare centers in their unoccupied premises. A way for daycares to access “really affordable” rents, and for schools to recruit future customers. The pandemic and the new health standards are putting more pressure on the number of places available in day care centers in these settings. Vacant spaces will no longer be. All the premises are used to create smaller cohorts of students.
Financial worries do not run parallel with the primary mandate of daycares: to bequeath culture. “If we are not able to solve the financial problem, we will not be able to transmit the language and make the culture survive. You have to work both, hand in hand ”.
L’Envol training, the core curriculum for early learning and child care programs in Alberta, is now available in French. In fact, the document has been available in French since 2014, but the provincial budget did not allow staff to have access to training in the language of Molière. Now yes, and this “thanks to the federal government”, underlines Mireille Péloquin. The provincial government has “issued a call for interest in fall registrations for the curriculum.” They opened 24 places – it’s a pilot project – and they had 70 places. They are all astonished to see that there is a demand in French, ”she says without concealing a repressed discontent.