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After the last Speech from the Throne, childcare services on the alert

When last month the canadian government has made known its desire to make “a significant investment” in child care services, nothing more was needed to raise hopes in the world of child care centers. Across Canada and particularly in the West.

André Magny – Local Journalism Initiative – APF – West

For Ronald Ajavon, director general of the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises, investments are necessary in daycare services. Photo credit: Courtesy of CÉF.

“The government remains committed to subsidizing the costs of before and after school programs. Given the way this pandemic has affected parents and families, it is more important than ever to have flexible childcare options during elementary school, ”read the Speech from the Throne on September 23.

An intention to which the CEO of the Council of Fransaskois Schools (CÉF), Ronald Ajavon. “Any investment in early childhood is very important,” he says. It should be noted that in Saskatchewan, it is the CÉF schools that mainly welcome preschool children, 3 years old to 5 years old, through the early childhood learning centers. These centers ensure that children’s development takes place in French, so as to integrate well into the CÉF program.

For 5 year olds, the cost of services is 50% subsidized by the Saskatchewan government, but for 3 and 4 year olds, the CÉF and parents pay the fees.

In the midst of elections and the pandemic, Mr. Ajavon assures us that requests have been made to the government for additional places. He obviously wants the federal government to ensure that francophones get their fair share when the money is sent to the province.

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Alberta is waiting

Isabelle Leblond dir. Les Pommes de reinette Alberta
Isabelle Leblond runs the Pommes de reinette daycare in Calgary.
Credit: Courtesy of Isabelle Leblond

“We have over 250 children on our waiting lists! »The one who thus launches a cry from the heart is the director of Pomme de reinette nursery, located in Calgary, Isabelle Leblond. “In my opinion, there are unfortunately not enough French-language daycare centers in Alberta and more specifically for children under 19 months and even for 3 years,” she underlines.

Mireille Péloquin dir. de la FPFA avec sa petite fille Sophia 20200731 e1604512270118
The Executive Director of the Fédération des parents francophones de l’Alberta, Mireille Péloquin, with her granddaughter Sophia.
Credit: Mireille Péloquin

In Alberta, unlike the Anglophone system, Francophone daycares do not come under an agency. According to the director general of the Federation of Francophone Parents of Alberta, Mireille Péloquin, the province has 50 Francophone daycare programs in Alberta: 41 are housed in Francophone schools, 8 in Francophone community spaces and 1 in a private shopping center. These programs are mostly run by non-profit organizations, school boards, and less than a dozen are private companies. According to Ms. Péloquin, if the federal government wants to have an impact, it would be to invest in agency status for Franco-Albertan daycare centers. “Ideally, there could be one in the south and one in the north,” she suggests.

For now, the pandemic is hurting daycare centers. If the children are not present, there are obviously fewer subsidies from the provincial government which goes into the coffers. “We have lost a lot of children in school day care programs,” explains Ms. Leblond. “Many parents are still teleworking, so they no longer need school daycare. For the Executive Director, the funds pledged by Ottawa will help “keep our fees as affordable as possible while recognizing the profession in order to continue to provide a rewarding work environment for employees.” “

An electoral issue

For the other province which was in the electoral campaign, British Columbia, “the issue of day care centers remains major for the various political platforms” if we are to believe Marie-Andrée Asselin of the Federation of Francophone Parents of British Columbia (FPFCB). “The needs are too great to do nothing,” explains the director general, alluding to the various parties in the running.

The main problem for Franco-Colombian parents remains the cost of daycare. According to the DG, on average, parents have to pay $ 1,200 per month to keep their offspring, despite government assistance to parents based on their income. “It’s a brake on the return to work,” says Marie-Andrée Asselin. It is often women who pay the price. The FPFCB intends to support the start-ups of new day care centers. Here too, places are lacking for young Franco-Colombians. Not all those with linguistic rights can benefit from daycare places.

1603477576wpdm Marie Andrée Asselin dg de la FPFCB
Marie-Andrée Asselin, Executive Director of the Federation of Francophone Parents of British Columbia.
Credit: Pascale Cyr

While “Canadians need more accessible, more affordable, more inclusive and better quality child care,” as the Speech from the Throne put it, in all provinces, “we do not have access to enough places and that is why it is important to invest in the creation of new places in early learning and childcare services for Francophones in minority communities ”, states the president of the National Commission for Francophone Parents, Louis Kdouh. It remains to be seen how much this investment will be. What is more, the lack of places for Francophone children in the West could be synonymous with “risk of assimilation” as concluded in an interview with Ronald Ajavon.