This document is addressed to all levels of governments across Canada. It references a shared vision1 anchored in an evidence-based framework for federal, provincial and territorial governments to use in the building of equitable early childhood education and care (ECEC)2 for all.
Canada’s child care community, spanning coast to coast to coast, acknowledges that Indigenous communities should be supported to design, deliver and govern ECEC systems and services that meet their needs and aspirations for self-determination. While there are many points of commonality in our shared vision, we recognize that Indigenous communities may choose unique approaches and content. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called on federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Indigenous families as a part of healing and reconciliation.
We begin with evidence highlighting high quality ECEC as an integral part of a holistic approach to social policy, cutting across multiple domains, including labour, social development, health, family and social infrastructure. ECEC plays a crucial role in supporting children, families and communities, promoting social inclusion, combating child and family poverty, stimulating the economy and promoting women’s equality. Thus, the Canadian status quo of high parent fees and limited access to quality child care impedes a number of important social and economic agendas.
ECEC is demonstrably an issue for Canada’s middle class as even in 2015, most middle class families cannot find or afford the high quality child care they need and want. Yet for families living in poverty it is an especially critical issue. In a country in which 40% of Indigenous children living on- and off-reserve are growing up in poverty, the urgency of acting decisively on ECEC for all cannot be overstated.
Finally, we recognize that putting this kind of framework in place is a journey, not an event. While our vision is aspirational and ambitious and will therefore take time, we submit that— although building an excellent ECEC system is complex—it will be well worth it if we are able to get it right from the start.
2 Early childhood education and care includes centre-based child care, regulated home child care, preschools/nursery schools and kindergarten; it has the same meaning as early learning and care.
3 ‘Universal’ is understood to mean non-compulsory (at parents’ discretion) – equitable, affordable, available and appropriate.