THUNDER BAY - For early childhood educators like Bailey Vanderwees, the job can be like a double-edged sword and she and many others would like to see changes made so more families can access the care they need and workers can feel valued in their jobs.
“It’s very rewarding, but it’s been very challenging,” she said. “Some of these kids come from disadvantaged homes.”
“There are a lot of people on the wait list at Aboriginal Head Start and there is not a lot of funding right now. It would be nice to have another centre or a preschool program.”
On Saturday, Our Community of Practice of Thunder Bay hosted the Walk for Childcare to raise awareness about challenges facing early childhood education in the city and across the country.
“We are committed to bringing awareness to quality childcare in Thunder Bay,” said Lori Houston, lead for Our Community of Practice in Thunder Bay. “No further cuts. This means childcare in all sectors. We are in solidarity with the schools right now and the EAs and early childhood educators being affected by cuts in the province.”
More than 30 people, young and old, braved the cold winds to walk around Boulevard Lake on Saturday holding signs and advocating for better pay for early childhood educators and better working conditions.
“We are continually fighting for decent pay and decent work conditions and getting away from a patchwork childcare system where families are struggling to find spaces,” Houston said. “There is just no real solid universal support for childcare.”
With the country in the middle of a federal election campaign, Houston said it is encouraging to see childcare being brought back into the spotlight. She said of all the political parties, the NDP’s plan to invest $10 billion into childcare is the most favourable right now.
But she said more needs to be done and she would like to see Canada adopt a universal childcare system.
“It will also support children living in poverty so they too can access quality care,” she said. “We know children are developing at younger ages and need to be out at quality programs, but if they can’t be out in child care, they are sitting in isolation until they go to school.”
And unfortunately this is not a new conversation, Houston added, but she hopes that events like the walk on Saturday will continue to raise awareness about an issue that has been ongoing for generations in Canada in the hopes that things might actually start to change.
“This narrative of no childcare spaces, too much money has been a narrative since my parents and my grandparents,” she said. “So it is overdue.”