MONTREAL -- Toddlers will soon be able to see the smiles of their educators and read their lips while they speak, something experts say is important for childhood development.

Minister of Families Mathieu Lacombe announced Thursday that the arrival of a new supplier in Quebec will allow the massive purchase of masks with transparent windows to distribute to educators in childcare centres, daycare centres and home childcare services.

The decision was taken following numerous recommendations from pediatricians "in order to promote the development of toddlers," the minister explained.

"It's reassuring to know that now children will be able to read the lips of their educators," he said.

It will take a few weeks before proceeding with the purchase and distribution, Lacombe said, noting that the province will need "several hundred thousand masks each week," since they are disposable masks.

Washable and reusable models that do not meet the CNESST (Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work) criteria.

Lacombe said the ministry will provide two to three masks per day per educator.

Pediatric experts have made no secret of their concern, since the start of the pandemic, at seeing children exposed to masked adults. They say it can be damaging not to see the lips of the educator.

Lacombe said he was particularly concerned by the fact that he was told that children have come to draw people without mouths.


The Minister also acknowledged that the development of new childcare places is seriously behind schedule.

Around 50,000 families have been waiting for around 11,000 places for two years for a place to put their children.

Lacombe believes that too much is being asked of early childhood centres by entrusting them with the development of new places.

"We give all the development of the network to NPOs (non-profit organizations) which are in the field, which have a lot of other fish to fry," he said. "There are a multitude of steps. There are advisory boards running through it all and during that time the government is accountable for the results and parents are waiting."

The minister suggested that he should find another path of development, the CPEs not having the time or the means to cross the real obstacle course imposed on them before giving the green light.

"The tools I have in front of me no longer allow me to go as fast as I want to go, do not allow me to go as fast as the parents want us to go," he said.

Lacombe repeated that the money is available to create new places and promises to quickly review the system to unlock development.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.