Demonstrations across Quebec call for more childcare spaces and improved support
MONTREAL -- Educators and parents struggling to find child care spaces marked Mother's Day with demonstrations across Quebec.
Instead of the traditional bouquets of flowers and brunches, the "Ma place au travail" and "Valorisons ma profession" movements are calling for an end to the shortage and better working conditions in child care.
Nearly 51,000 children are currently on the waiting list, while exhaustion is pushing some workers to leave the profession.
"There are many departures. There are girls who send their CVs elsewhere. There are some who fall one after the other in exhaustion, who are on sick leave. It doesn't stop," said Emilie Dechamplain, a CPE educator and activist for a greater recognition of her profession.
Contacted by phone in Quebec City, Ma place au travail organizer Myriam Lapointe-Gagnon said that there is a single problem within the childcare network.
"When you ask any citizen's opinion, they will tell you that they think that children are important, but the funding does not follow," she said.
And it's not just the children who are affected, the young mother said, "These are thousands of women on unpaid leave because of the shortage of daycare spaces across Quebec."
Her own six-month-old baby will not have a place until 2023.
"It's a constant stress for us," she said, as she must return to school in the fall to complete her PhD in psychology.
The government says it is in the process of improving the situation.
"Already, Minister Mathieu Lacombe has cut the bureaucracy last March in order to accelerate the development of thousands of spaces," said Ministry of Families spokesperson Antoine de la Durantaye. "The spaces are coming! In the coming year, it is estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 subsidized spaces will be created! In addition to these measures, the minister will announce tomorrow a new concrete solution to make spaces available more quickly."
Durantaye said that the province has been hemorrhaging daycare spaces since 2014 and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation.
"We have already promised that we will address this," he added. "In the last budget, there is nearly $100 million to attract new family childcare providers to take more children. These are spaces that could be created very quickly."
Nearly 9,000 parents got involved in the movement, just two months after Lapointe-Gagnon launched it from her living room with a simple click.
Since then, Lapointe-Gagnon said she has gotten "a lot of attention, (but) little action" from Lacombe.
"He tells us to wait, wait, wait," she said. "But we tell him that in the meantime, there are parents who are in inconceivably precarious situations."
She is calling for immediate financial assistance for families deprived of a salary while waiting to place their child in care, a reduction in the administrative burden to create childcare settings and measures to recruit and retain educators, who did not receive any bonus during the pandemic.
According to Dechamplain, the problem goes back much further than the last year, with budget cuts by previous governments, among others.
"It's not taken seriously, often," she said. "There are still a lot of people who think we are like babysitters. It would be nice if people understood that we are specialists in the development of children from 0 to 5 years old."
The 'Valorisons ma profession' movement, which is not affiliated with any union or party, has gathered about 5,600 members on a Facebook group in just over a month.
"Our profession is truly magnificent," says Dechamplain. "Mr. Lacombe, the network he has in his hands, is really a jewel. It is a network that is the envy of the rest of Canada and they are right to say so, but our network is in crisis and we must act quickly."
Rallies were held in several cities across the province, including Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Rimouski.
-- with files from CTV News.