FIFSW letter in support of a universal, Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Employment and Social Development Canada
As social work practitioners, educators, researchers and administrators, we know that early childhood education and child care has the capacity to help children, their families — and, subsequently our overall society — to thrive. As such, we are writing today to urge the federal government to implement a permanent, universal, Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system that will ensure no child is left behind.
Over the past year, we have witnessed the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on families, which has exposed the gross inequities embedded in our society. Working mothers have been disproportionately impacted, with many being forced to leave the labour force to care for their children (Yousif, 2020). In marginalized and racialized families, the impact has been even greater (Sultana & Ravanera, 2020). A high-quality universal Early Learning and Child Care system implemented Canada-wide is a vital step in addressing COVID-19 and longstanding inequities.
A universal system would support parents, particularly women, who need to enter the workforce. It would enable women experiencing domestic violence to leave abusive relationships (Alaggia, Regehr & Jenney, 2012; Milne, 2016). It would reduce public spending associated with policing, courts, health services and the justice system (Stanford, 2020). It would also help level the harsh inequalities for racialized families, newcomer and immigrant families and other marginalized groups who are currently unable to access childcare due to prohibitive costs. Vulnerable children will particularly benefit in enriched environments, as is necessary for all children across this country to thrive (McCuaig, 2012).
Scientific evidence clearly shows that child care based on early learning instills protective factors for children over their lifetime, setting the stage for resilient outcomes in times of adversity and providing children with the skills they need to succeed throughout their life (McCain & Mustard, 1999). Access to affordable, high quality education and child care contributes to the social, emotional and cognitive growth of children in the pre-school years, which are the most sensitive periods for brain development — cognitively, socially and emotionally (McCain 2020). Further, our overall society benefits from gains made in the investment of human potential and capital, which ultimately drives down subsequent public spending in later years (Stanford, 2020) and reduces Canada’s income inequality (Alexander et al., 2017).
As social work professionals, we bring scientific knowledge to bear in our appeal for a universal early learning and child care system. Canada’s social safety net has been a significant strength of our country. It can be greatly enhanced by a universal Early Learning and Child Care system. Now is the time to act to improve the health and wellbeing of children, families and Canada’s diverse communities.
Faculty and Staff
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto
Cc: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C. M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister
Alaggia, R., Regehr, C., & Jenney, A. (2012). Risky business: An ecological analysis of intimate partner violence disclosure. Research on Social Work Practice, 22(3), 301-312.
Alexander, C., Beckman k., Macdonald, A., Renner, C. & Stewart M. (2017) Ready for Life: A Socio-Economic Analysis of Early Childhood Education and Care. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2017.
McCuaig, K. (2021). Serving all children to catch the most vulnerable. Healthcare Quarterly Vol. 15, Special Issue, July 2021.
Milne, Kendra (2016) High Stakes: The impacts of child care on the human rights of women and children. West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. British Columbia.
Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain (2020). Early Years Study 4: Thriving Kids, Thriving Society. Toronto: Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation Inc.
McCain M. & Mustard, F. (1999). Early Years Study: Reversing the Real Brain Drain. Ontario Children’s Secretariat.
Sanford, Jim (2020) The Role of Early Learning and Child Care in Rebuilding Canada’s Economy after COVID-19. Policy Options: Centre for Future Work.
Sultana, A. & Ravanera, C. (2020). A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada: Making the Economy Work for Everyone. The Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) and YWCA Canada.
Yousif, N. (2020). Reopening schools safely is now Canada’s most urgent task. Maclean’s, September 2020.