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Child Care at Risk

posted Mar 26, 2011, 1:26 PM by Esther Matharu   [ updated Mar 29, 2011, 10:40 AM ]
What happens when government stops the funding of women and child care support organizations?

The loss of government funding in the past years, and the implicit strategy of the Harper administration to undermine the social service sector and especially traditional women’s affairs such as child care, services to First Nations women and children, to immigrant women and families, as well as a host of other organizations (see attachement below for details), has reaped a harvest of woes and suffering on the most fragile members of our society. Much has been written on this. Suffice to say that these agencies have had to restructure and reduce staff drastically, pushing people out to get other jobs, and the clients to resign themselves to having no support in those areas which are so important to the survival of marginalized, impoverished and uneducated women and their families. Below are three examples of how cutting funding has affected services to the vulnerable in our society.

The Canadian Child Care Federation has gone from 22 staff members in 2007 to 2.5 staff members in 2011. Government funding dropped from 90% to 0%. Lynda Kerr, Senior Director of CCCF says “Our revenue today it is ZERO due to the change in government. Liberals were a huge child care advocate (with Ken Dryden in the lead). With the change in government, our core funding was cut and programs, services, projects dropped significantly”.

Andrea Auger, CAB/Touchtones Coordinator for First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada says that
even though the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (the Caring Society) is the only non profit organization working specifically for First Nations children, “we no longer receive any federal funding dollars. In 2007, the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations launched a Human Rights complaint against the government of Canada – Indian and Northern Affairs Canada –alleging a longstanding pattern of providing less government funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves than is provided to non-Aboriginal children (www.fnwitness.ca)”. Andrea questions the timing of the loss of the core funding in March 2007 and the non-renewal of the project dollars which expired in May 2009. “The loss of funding cannot be directly linked to our work for children but the timing of the cuts raises questions about how a dialogue of difference is supported in a democracy when your views differ from those of the government”. One real way people can help FNCFCS is spelt out in this link. Abdrea invites everyone to check it out and follow the Seven Free Ways to Make A Difference. Go to www.fncaringsociety.com  - What You Can Do.

“We’ll have to shut down without their funding,” says South Asian Women’s Centre executive director Kripa Sekhar, whose agency received $570,000 or 67 per cent of overall funding from Ottawa. It served 14,000 clients last year, mostly South Asian women. “There will be a vacuum in servicing these women. We do plan to stay in operation to ensure client needs are met, but we will only be able to run a scaled down service.”

Child Care

In all the three above cases, the reason for funding cuts was the current government’s priorities. A few scenarios are plausible. Take money out of child care and give tax cuts to the rich is one. Cut funding of women (especially First Nations and Immigrants) and buy war planes, presumably to go to war. Stop funding of child care and force women to stay at home – more jobs for men, and it’s the woman’s place to stay at home anyway, according to a particular interpretation of various faith traditions.

But here’s the real question: why should something as important as Child Care be dependent on which government is in power? In many countries that are way ahead of Canada according to every index, such as Norway and all Scandinavian countries, Child Care is a human right, or a child’s right. The fact that child care depends on government funding is shocking. Like our health system, child care for every child living in Canada should become inscribed in our national law, and totally independent of provincial, municipal or government funding. Imagine what would happen if every election brought a change in our health system?

We urgently need a Canadian Child Care national strategy and a child care ministerial department, even if it is a sub branch of Education. First Nations children must be given equal priority, from child birth to higher education, and education needs to include all aspects of First Nations world view, science, language and history. Respect to other cultures is a sine qua non condition to building a multicultural society. There is an urgent need to review the entire approach towards our children. The type of future our children will inherit depends on this.
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Esther Matharu,
Mar 26, 2011, 1:32 PM
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