Funding for northern childcare facilities opens up new job, education opportunities

Aboriginal communities in northern Manitoba have been given $743,000 for the construction of daycare facilities, said a government press release.

According to information provided to the Manitoban by a government spokesperson, the government is aware of the struggles that some families face in northern communities especially when it comes to locating childcare.

The funding is part of the Family Choices initiative that was introduced by Housing Minister, Gord Mackintosh in 2008. It will fund the construction of 160 child-care facilities.
The program is part of Manitoba’s five year agenda for early education and child care. Among the goals of the agenda are plans to introduce 6,500 more spaces and build 35 more program sites by the year 2013.

Along with the funding for child-care facilities the provincial government is also investing roughly $60,000 in 13 other northern child-care centers for equipment and renovations.

According to Peter Kulchyski, a professor at the University of Manitoba’s department of native studies and expert in aboriginal cultural politics, this kind of funding is crucial for northern communities.
“Daycare facilities are urgently needed across the aboriginal north, both for preschool children to gain a good foundation for school and for young mothers to be able to access whatever educational possibilities may exist for them locally,” said Kulchyski.

Kulschyski said that one of the critical issues is to ensure that there was an aspect of traditional knowledge and culture included in the programs.

While these programs are aimed at younger children, both children and parents will benefit from the opportunities they provide.

“They would allow many of the parents, often single mothers, a chance at education or employment they might otherwise not have,” said Kulchyski.

Premier Greg Selinger, explained in the press release that enriching the life of families in northern Manitoba through better child-care facilities is a main goal of the provincial government.

“We are committed to ensuring that safe, enriching child care is available so parents have the choice to work or pursue the training they need to support their families,” said Selinger.

“In this difficult economic environment, high-quality, affordable child care is critical for many Manitoba families,” he continued.

Cees De Vries, manager of new initiatives and communications for the Manitoba Child Care Program, explained that it’s these kinds of expansion that enable a number of opportunities in employment and education that did not exist previously.

“Child care is always a critical piece of the puzzle and you want to make sure that childcare is in place for folks so they can make those decisions.”

When asked if this was enough, or if there is more that could be done, De Vries replied, “There’s always opportunity. I think we need to assess that when we come to 2013 when we’re looking at the evaluation of how family choices did and the impacts that it had.”

The costs for the programs is paid for through a combination of money from the parents’ pocket and government funding, but subsidies for low income families who can’t afford the program is available as long the parent is employed or working, said De Vries.

“I think the expansion of the child-care system is something that’s really important for Manitoba families. [ . . . ] Across Manitoba and in the north, these investments are going to make a difference for families on an individual level.”