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Educational services deficient in nearly 30 per cent of Quebec daycares evaluated

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare. (Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press) Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare. (Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press)
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Since 2018, nearly 30 per cent of early childhood centres (CPEs) and daycare centres have failed the educational quality assessment prepared by the Ministry of the Family.

This failure rate has risen to 41 per cent in 2022-2023.

Quebec auditor general Guylaine Leclerc tabled a voluminous four-part report in the national assembly on Thursday, heavily criticizing Suzanne Roy's ministry.

Leclerc points out that, by law, every child has the right, within the limits of available resources and spaces, to receive personalized, quality educational childcare.

However, the ministry has "done little to intervene" with childcare services that have failed the evaluation, and the corrective actions put in place are insufficient, her report states.

In a news briefing, the auditor general established a "correlation" between failure rates and the lack of qualified staff; the proportion of daycares without a ratio of two qualified educators out of three rose from 32 to 46 per cent between 2018 and 2023.

After reducing ratios during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec has set itself the goal of gradually returning to a regulatory ratio of two qualified educators out of three by April 2027.

At this rate, it will be "practically impossible" to achieve, the auditor general predicted to reporters on Thursday.

Children's health and safety

Moreover, the number of complaints relating to "inappropriate attitudes or practices" rose from 203 in 2018-2019 to 358 in 2022-2023, an increase of 76 per cent, she noted.

She gave an example of a complaint received by the ministry: "Educators (...) would regularly use threats, sarcasm and humiliation in their interventions with children."

In addition: "Great hostility (...) pulling a child's arm, teeth clenched and face furious, moving a child by barding him to the low wall, pushing him to the ground."

The ministry's interventions are "insufficient to prevent frequent breaches of children's health and safety," said Leclerc.

In her report, she mentioned expired medications, improperly stored toxic cleaning products, and problems with verifying the absence of impediments in over 20 per cent of inspections.

It should be noted that police must establish whether the educator has a history of certain behaviours (sexual misconduct, violent behaviour, failure to provide the necessities of life).

If this is the case, the ministry or educational childcare service must decide whether the person is prevented from working in childcare.

As if that weren't enough, the auditor general also noted that over 15 per cent of daycare centres have never been tested for lead in water.

Nor does the ministry ensure adequate follow-up of actions taken by those with excessively high lead levels, she concluded in her report.

For example, 90 per cent of daycare centres were inspected, and 26 per cent exceeded the standard.

Minister Roy is reassuring

"We have figures that show us that what we've been so proud of for 25 years, well, it's a network that's deteriorating," said Joël Arseneau, Parti Québécois family spokesperson, on Thursday. "The government obviously wants to move quickly, but not necessarily better (...) I think this report is extremely painful for the Minister of Families, but also for families who use daycare services."

Questioned in the Salon Bleu on Thursday, Roy maintained that "the environments are safe" and that "we continue to evaluate on an ongoing basis to constantly improve quality within the network."

For its part, the ministry recalled that "during the period covered by the audit, educational childcare services (SGEE) had to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented shortage of manpower.

"The mobilization as well as the constant and sustained efforts of the SGEE network made it possible to ensure quality service despite the challenges inherent in the pandemic context," it affirmed.

Union reactions

In a news release issued on Thursday, the Association québécoise des CPE (AQCPE) expressed concern at the "serious alarm signal sent out by a neutral body."

"Although it also has its challenges, the CPE (...) is the model that generates the most quality and is the most likely to ensure children's safety. Let's choose it," said Marie-Claude Lemieux, the company's co-CEO.

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and the Fédération des intervenantes en petite enfance du Québec (FIPEQ-CSQ) added that the auditor general's report on the quality of early childhood education services is distressing.

They demand "that the government take seriously the issues present in the network and make the necessary efforts to maintain qualified caregivers in place and thus ensure better quality services."

Failure rate for educational quality assessment:

2022-2023

  • CPE: 21 per cent
  • Subsidized daycares: 57 per cent
  • Non-subsidized daycares: 59 per cent
  • Failure rate for 2022-2023: 41 per cent
  • Cumulative since 2018: 30 per cent

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 23, 2024. 

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