It's time for child care for all - Des services de garde éducatifs pour tous

Letter to Minister Hadju and Dr. Tam on emergency child care during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dr. Theresa Tam,
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Office of the President and Chief Public Health Officer
Public Health Agency of Canada
130 Colonnade Road
A.L. 6501H
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

March 25, 2020

Dear Minister Hajdu and Doctor Tam,

I am writing to you on behalf of Canada’s three national early childhood education and child care organizations: Child Care Now, Canada’s child care advocacy association; the Canadian Child Care Federation, Canada’s organization of early childhood educators; and the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Canada’s lead voice on child care policy research.

We must raise with you an urgent matter related to COVID-19 and the emergency child care measures that many provincial governments have put into place over the last few days to assist parents who are required to work during the ongoing pandemic and are unable to find alternative child care supports.

First, we want to express our gratitude for your remarkable leadership during this public health crisis and for the extraordinary measures that the Government of Canada has taken to assist residents of Canada get through this difficult time.

We know you are working closely with provincial, territorial and municipal counterparts to ensure a coordinated response guided by public health expertise. It gives Canadians confidence when our elected governments make similar decisions with respect to public safety, and when they tell us that they are following the sound advice of public health officials.

However, that confidence has been eroded with respect to child care because of the different approaches being taken. Some provinces shut down child care centres for public safety reasons, yet they remain open in some places. In some provinces, licensed centres were closed down and then almost immediately re-opened to provide emergency child care services during the pandemic.  Our organizations have followed the public announcements very closely and there is very little information to the public about how emergency child care will be made safe for staff, children and their parents. In some provinces child care is being allowed in home-based licensed and non-licensed child care providers, others are opting to limit emergency child care to licensed centres. There seems to be no common approach to putting limits on the number of children who will be cared for in these centres, or to putting in place protocols for their care.

We believe it is imperative and urgent that Canada’s Office of the President and Chief Public Health Officer investigate the situation, develop guidelines and best practices that provinces, territories, and municipals can follow. This information must also be communicated to parents, staff and the public so that they can make informed decisions with respect to the care arrangements for their children.

Thank you for giving your attention to this matter. We know you are having to address many complex issues within very tight timelines and with limited resources. We would be pleased to share with you all the information we have on how the child care situation is unfolding on-the-ground. We know you will agree that precautions are necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 through the provision of regular and/or emergency child care services. This is particularly important given that most of the parents who will be using the services are so critical to the all-out effort to keep Canadians healthy, and to flattening the curve.

Yours sincerely,

Morna Ballantyne
Executive Director
Child Care Now
(Canadian Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada)

c.c. The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of        Intergovernmental Affairs
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, P.C., M.P, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Don Giesbrecht, CEO, Canadian Child Care Federation
Martha Friendly, Executive Director, Childcare Resource and Research Unit