The Quebec government is overhauling its Educational Child Care Act, expanding the government’s responsibility for ensuring universal access to affordable and quality programs, and expanding the network of child care services. Bill 1, introduced on October 21, 2021, will help it make good on the governing CAQ’s promise to create 37,000 additional child care spaces by 2025.
The Association Québécoise des centres de la petite enfance, the organization representing the province’s not-for-profit child care centres (CPEs), welcomed the tabled legislation but appealed to the government to emphasize quality in its expansion efforts by funding primarily the building and operation of more not-for-profit centres.
Bill 1 proposes to enshrine in law the right to “quality personalized educational childcare services”, from birth to kindergarten or entry into elementary school. Further, Bill 1 would oblige the Minister of Families to ensure that the supply of child care services meets demand in all regions. The proposed legislation would permit the provincial government to either finance or directly build child care centres.
The troubled La Place 0-5 portal where parents register for child care will be replaced and brought under the direct management of the Ministry of Families. Bill 1 requires that all children admitted to child care services be registered via the new portal. This centralization of information will help the Ministry assess and determine child care needs.
The proposed law states that all home child care must be licensed with few exceptions. Bill 1 also gives the Ministry stronger oversight and management of regulated home-based child care.
Child care service providers – whether in centres or homes, will now be required to admit children based on regulations set out by the government. Although not yet detailed, these regulations will prioritize “children who live in precarious socio-economic situations.” The Quebec child care system has been criticized for not ensuring equitable access including by Quebec’s Auditor General in a 2020 report.
Importantly, Bill 1 provides for agreements to be reached with Indigenous nations and communities and understands that these agreements will supersede the Act and regulations, taking into account the distinct needs and realities of Indigenous Peoples.