Draft child care model for newcomer families

Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded the organization CMAS ~ Childminding Monitoring and Advisory Services to draft a child care model for newcomer families; one that would “fit with the modernization of settlement services“.

The draft model is now available on the CMAS website, although it seems that, unfortunately,  feedback is only open until Jan 26th – tomorrow. immigrantchildren.ca responds:

The draft model proposes 3 goals: to simplify the child care system; to support Service Provider Organizations (SPOs) in offering care to more newcomers; and to focus on the child and family. These goals are  synonymous with the goals long articulated by child care advocates and researchers, see the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, for example. A comprehensive, not-for-profit, flexible, community-based and publicly funded and regulated child care system would provide all these things to newcomer families with children – as much as it would for all Canadian families and children. In fact, the more “universal” a program, the more it would respond to the differing needs of various groups: student parents, immigrant parents, rural families, shift-working parents. Thirty years of research and policy and program development have the knowledge to build a truly comprehensive system of child care for all Canadian families, newcomer and otherwise.

In the CMAS proposal, there is little meat around the notions of “a streamlined administrative process” and “maximum flexibility”. What do these mean? How will they be operationalized? What are the requirements that CMAS speaks of? Most glaringly, the notion of “quality child care” is not defined, explained or discussed, although it is promised. Is there a more detailed document that is not being shared?

On page 16, it is suggested that each SPO can assess its own child care needs. This adds a burden on the already overworked SPO. If CIC is committed to providing quality child care for newcomer families, then surely it has a clear role in assessing, developing, implementing and offering child care programs. Leaving it to the SPOs does not promote a comprehensive, universal approach.

Again, there is mention of “requirements” that are not elaborated on. Just what are the requirements? Who has set them? How will they be monitored? Evaluated?

How can the new model be responsive to the needs of newcomer children and families when, as stated on page 17, “Adult services will assist in determining what child care support is required”.

Indeed, child care support is the term used throughout the document. Child care “support”? This is a missed opportunity for the Federal government to acknowledge (as many other jurisdictions in Canada do) that child care is early learning. This proposed model is purely custodial. This is not a support to newcomer families. Early learning would support the integration of newcomer children – integration is a priority of the Federal government.

Indeed there is no discussion of programming, other than mentions of a program’s ability to respond to the needs of newcomer children. But how? For a draft model that purports to address the needs of immigrant children and families, it is light on details.

In addition, there is no discussion of staffing. Other than mentions of enhanced ability of “caregivers” to deliver programming, it is not clear if staff will be required to have any level of training. Will staff be Early Childhood Educators? As Ontario (and other jurisdictions in Canada and North America) moves to upgrading and professionalizing those who work with the most vulnerable of populations (children, and in particular, young immigrant children), the Federal government has missed out on the opportunity to provide newcomer children with the best start possible.

(A parallel “system” of child care exists for military families). More piecemeal approaches do little to further the development of a truly comprehensive system of early learning and child care for all families and children in Canada. The proposed model for newcomer families is a disappointment. immigrantchildren.ca urges CIC to go back to the table, consult with researchers, advocates, practitioners, policy-makers and academics and develop a pan-Canadian child care system that meets the needs of all children and families.

Welcoming Communities Seminar, Ottawa

Metropolis Canada presents a seminar on Welcoming Communities on Jan 25/10 in Ottawa at Library and Archives Canada. The seminar is free, but an RSVP is required to project-metropolis@cic.gc.ca by January 11, 2010.

The seminar will address how Canadian communities can be more welcoming. From the announcement:

“In the years to come, the growth in multiculturalism will have a marked effect on the major urban centres of Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto (where within the next 10 years, 50% of the population will be visible minorities). The effects will also be felt in the smallest municipalities and in remote areas. Because social integration must be a two-way process, it requires an ongoing willingness on the part of both immigrants and the Canadian-born population to adapt. In order for this process to be successful, and for society to be strengthened as a result, Canada’s communities must be truly welcoming. Throughout the course of the day, this collective mission will be borne in mind as we attempt to clarify what “welcoming community” means. The notion of welcoming community will be examined under four themes: 1) the degree of which federal, provincial and municipal governments are proactive; 2) the role of non-governmental organizations; 3) the urban/rural divide; and 4) Francophone and Anglophone minority language communities”.

For more info, including registration, visit the Metropolis Canada website.

Britain apologizes to home children

Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, The Honourable Jason Kenney, continues to get positive responses from media and, as translated by an Environics poll, average Canadians, for his revamped citizenship guide, released last week. The new guide, Discover Canada, outlines the rights and responsibilities of new immigrants to Canada, and provides a more in-depth look at Canadian history than the previous editions, including, much to Kenney’s (and his advisor’s) credit, some of the shameful ways immigrants have been treated in this country.

For example, the guide acknowledges that Chinese immigrants were welcome to build the national railway, but afterwards, “were subject to discrimination including the Head Tax, a race-based entry fee; the Government of Canada apologized in 2006 for this discriminatory policy” (p.20). The guide also acknowledges the “relocation of West Coast Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government, and the forcible sale of their property (during WWII)…The Government of Canada apologized for wartime wrongs inflicted on Japanese Canadians” (p. 23).

immigrantchildren.ca welcomed the release of the new revised guide last week and hoped that it would include acknowledgment of the treatment of the “home children” – the approximately 100,000 children who were sent to Canada in a child emigration scheme and who were, as history tells us, routinely neglected, abused and often worked to their deaths. The new citizenship guide did not include mention of these littlest immigrants.

immigrantchildren.ca was delighted to read that the British government has apologized to the home children it sent away (see, for example, this piece in the National Post). A spokesperson from the organization Home Children Canada welcomed the news and demands such an apology from the Canadian government. The apology is not forthcoming.

The “home children” represent another shameful period in Canada’s history and also merits acknowledgment – in the next edition of Discover Canada, in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, in a permanent display at Pier 21, in history text books and in an apology.

In two days, Canada will celebrate National Child Day and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To keep moving forward on child rights, Canada needs to admit to its historic wrongs.

New citizenship guide for new Canadians

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism today released an updated guide to Canadian Citizenship. Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

The launch of the “study guide” (last published in 1997) was held at the Terry Fox Centre, where Minister Kenney talked about inspiration, fortune and his vision for modern Canada. The announcement – and guide – provide a generous nod to Canada’s military history and major events (the 1997 edition skipped quite a bit of this, including Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Dieppe). The guide also does not shy away from some shameful periods in Canada’s past, such as the residential schools for Aboriginal children, the Internment of Japanese Canadians and the Chinese Exclusion Act, but I was disappointed to not see mention of the home children.

Canadian history must acknowledge the home children – some 100,000 children taken from their homeland and brought to our shores to serve labour needs that Canadians could not or would not take on (sound familiar?). A great many of these children were younger than 10 years old and lived lives of brutality. These children were not adopted in the sense of how we use the word today, but taken, often bought and treated as chattel.  I’ll be lobbying the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to include an exhibit on the home children. Who’s with me?

Consultation on child care for newcomer families

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has funded the organization CMAS (Childminding Monitoring Advisory Support) to conduct a national consultation of the settlement community, including immigrant serving organizations, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) administrators and childminders, towards the development of a new child care model for newcomer families. The consultation process includes an online survey and teleconferences. See the CMAS website for information and details.

Federal funding for projects promoting integration

The Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism are entertaining proposals for projects “Promoting Integration*“.

Program Objectives:

  1. Ethno-cultural/racial minorities participate in public decision-making (civic participation) To assist in the development of strategies that facilitate full and active participation of ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious communities in Canadian society.
  2. Communities and the broad public engage in informed dialogue and sustained action to combat racism (anti-racism/anti-hate/cross-cultural understanding) To increase public awareness, understanding and informed public dialogue about multiculturalism, racism, and cultural diversity in Canada.To facilitate collective community initiatives and responses to ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious conflict and hate-motivated activities.
  3. Public institutions eliminate systemic barriers (institutional change) To improve the ability of public institutions to respond to ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious diversity by assisting in the identification and removal of barriers to equitable access and by supporting the involvement of these ethno-racial/cultural communities in the public decision-making process.

Program Priorities

  1. Program Priorities:Support the economic, social, and cultural integration of new Canadians and cultural communities. Emphasis will be placed on projects which aim to: assist new Canadians and cultural communities to gain knowledge and skills for economic, social, and cultural integration and civic engagement; provide opportunities and support for the involvement of new Canadians and cultural communities to work in partnerships with various stakeholders towards identifying and resolving issues affecting them (schools, social services, employment, recognition of foreign credentials, justice systems, policing, media, etc.); improve the ability of public institutions to respond to, and integrate, ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious diversity by assisting in the identification and removal of barriers to equitable access.
  2. Facilitate programs such as mentorship, volunteerism, leadership, and civic education among at-risk cultural youth Areas of emphasis include projects that will: assist cultural youth at-risk to gain self-confidence, knowledge, and skills for participation and civic engagement (volunteerism); provide opportunities for youth through partnerships with their peers, adults, and community leaders as well as through mentorship initiatives, to gain practical learning experience and develop the skills necessary to contribute to the economic, social and cultural life of their communities; assist in addressing the root causes of cultural youth marginalization, detachment, and radicalization; assist youth in responding to racism and hate-motivated activities.
  3. Promote inter-cultural understanding and Canadian values (democracy, freedom, human rights and rule of law) through community initiatives, with the objective of addressing issues of cultural social exclusion (parallel communities) and radicalization. Areas of emphasis include projects that will: foster interaction between different communities and support cross-sector collaboration in community-based projects to build and shape an inclusive and respectful society; facilitate collective community initiatives and responses to combat ethnic, racial, cultural and religious conflicts and hate-motivated activities; support community-based initiatives designed to facilitate inter-faith dialogue and increase understanding of the place of religion in Canada in order to combat ignorance and faulty assumptions and foster constructive and informed dialogue about multiculturalism, religions, racism, cultural diversity, and Canadian values; encourage activities aimed at reaching society at large to facilitate inter-cultural understanding and address the cultural social exclusion of some communities; increase awareness and understanding of racism and discrimination and take action to foster equal opportunities for all people; reduce or eliminate factors contributing to exclusion, disenchantment, and radicalization.

*Still no official definition of “integration” from the Federal government.

Auditor-General raises concerns about Canadian immigration policy/system

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser has raised serious questions around Canada’s immigration policies and system.

Specifically, the temporary worker program (TFW) is, according to Fraser, growing in spite of internal concerns of fraud and abuse. One of the criticisms is that employers are using the program to bring in their relatives, she claims.

From the Globe & Mail: “It looks a little suspicious on the face of it,” citing a scenario in which a small business with revenues of $20,000 could sponsor an employee – who is also a relative – at a $40,000 salary.

“The report notes that Canadian immigration is moving away from a federal system in which points are awarded to applicants with high-level skills. Instead, Ottawa is handing over more responsibility for immigration to the provinces with little knowledge of who the provinces are bringing in.

“The Auditor-General also reviewed the impact of controversial new powers awarded to Canada’s immigration minister that were included and passed as part of the Conservative government’s 2008 budget bill.

“We found that the Department [of Citizenship and Immigration] has made a number of key decisions in recent years without properly assessing their costs and benefits, potential risks, and likely impact on programs,” Ms. Fraser told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “Some of these decisions have caused a significant shift in the types of foreign workers being admitted permanently to Canada. There is little evidence that this shift is part of any well-defined strategy to best meet the needs of the Canadian labour market.”

Source: Globe and Mail online, November 3/09.

Liberal Pink Book, Vol III: An action plan for Canadian women

The Liberal Party of Canada released yesterday their Pink Book, Volume III: An Action Plan for Canadian Women. I tweeted overall disappointment in not addressing immigration issues and specifically that there was no discussion or proposal for improving the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that brings women to Canada as nannies to provide child care for Canadian women (often leaving behind their own children in the process).

The third volume in the Pink Book series does make commitments on child care and on a “national care-giving strategy” (p. 8) but doesn’t connect the dots. Here’s what they say about early learning and child care, under the general heading of Women in the Economy:

“The National Liberal Women’s Caucus recommends that a new federal Liberal government: Work with the provinces and territories to build a system of affordable, accessible and high-quality early learning and childcare spaces across the country, including programs to meet the unique needs of rural families” (p. 6).

Continuing in the same category, they propose to “Establish a ‘Bridging-to-Employment’ program covering the first 6 weeks of salary for new immigrant and visible minority women employees. Workplace educational programs should also be expanded to help break down existing racial and gender stereotypes” (p. 7).

The problem with these policy directions include not recognizing that much of the patchwork that is the child care system in Canada is provided by immigrant women in the informal, unlicensed sector.  Canada brings in TFWs/nannies to address labour shortages. The human resource issues in regulated child care are numerous and are being examined by a federal body, but again, there is no link made in this third volume of policies to improve life for women in Canada.

A truly comprehensive plan for women in Canada requires reconciling immigration policy that exploits migrant women workers, does not deliver ‘high-quality’ early learning, and furthers racial and gender stereotypes with the plans to create an affordable, accessible and high quality system. The overlaps and gaps are clear.

An interesting piece is the attention paid to language in legislation, including a commitment to change foreign policy wording of “children in armed conflict” to “child soldiers”. Curious.

Language matters: Metropolis seminar on language acquisition and newcomer integration

Metropolis Canada presents Language Matters: A Policy-Research Seminar on Language Acquisition and Newcomer Integration on Thurs Oct 22/09, 8am-4pm at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

From the flyer at Metropolis Canada:

“It is widely believed that acquiring the language(s) of the host society is critical to all aspects of the integration of newcomers – economic, social, cultural and political. And while linguistic diversity has always been a hallmark of Canadian society, this diversity has deepened with recent waves of immigration. In cooperation with provincial governments and other partners, the Government of Canada offers a range of official language training and related programs across the country to youth and adult newcomers.

“Despite these initiatives, language remains a barrier to labour market success for many newcomers, including skilled workers. A mismatch exists between employers’ expectations and newcomers’ perceptions of requisite linguistic ability for many occupations. At the same time, newcomers’ linguistic integration also depends on the receptivity of those listening to them, especially native speakers of English and French.

“Maintenance of heritage languages and the existence of ethnic enclaves pose further complexities. Passing on the ancestral language to subsequent generations is an important way for linguistic minorities to maintain their cultural diversity. On the other hand, heavy dependence on the enclave may weaken linguistic and overall integration into mainstream society. In an era marked by increasing globalization and international trade, knowledge of languages other than English and French could also be an asset to Canadian institutions and individuals.

“This seminar will provide both national and international perspectives on the complex relationship between language acquisition and newcomer integration, with the twin objectives of informing policy discussions and identifying future research directions”.

immigrantchildren.ca hopes that the seminar speaks to the (2nd, 3rd, and subsequent) language acquisition for newcomer children and has a comprehensive approach to addressing the disconnect that can occur between immigrant parents – who want their children to learn English or French as a 2nd language, in order to fit in to Canadian mainstream society – and the importance of retaining the home language to not only support 2nd (and more) language acquisition, but which speaks directly to the relationship (and attachment) between parents and their children. Particularly young children take on a 2nd language well and as a result may severe themselves from their first language/culture and create a separation from their families and countries of origin. See mylangauge.ca for information on the importance of retaining home languages.

immigrantchildren.ca is heartened to hear that Prof Jim Cummins of OISE is on the panel for this seminar and know he will bring foward the notion of – and importance of – multiple literacies.

immigrantchildren.ca hopes that the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is invited to attend the seminar. MinJK (as he’s known on twitter) has made a few public statements about immigrant children learning English or French as they integrate into Canada. Select examples:

Stateless children

Refugees International presents Futures Denied: Statelessness among infants, children and youth. According to tthe childtrafficking.com listserv, some 11-12 million children, “though born and raised in their parents country of habitual residence” are stateless or without effective nationality.

Stateless was a concern raised when new citizenship policy, impacting first generation of international adoptees, was introduced by the federal government in the Spring of 2009. The new regulations offered an option to grant immediate Canadian citizenship to adopted children, but put limits or conditions on any children they might have outside of Canada. The rationale for the policy change was to provide an additional option for adoptive parents who were pursuing citizenship status for adopted children through the naturalization process. For more info, including to external links, see the posts at immigrantchildren.ca and chidinterrupted.ca.

Feds fund HIPPY to integrate immigrant children

In March ’09TVO and HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) to deliver literacy programming, targeted to newcomer children and families. This week, the federal government has funded HIPPY to develop and deliver “culturally sensitive programs” for immigrant children.

The funding (around $3M from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and $300,000 from Human Resources and Skills Development) will be used to “increase Canadian content” in the HIPPY curriculum and expand programs across Canada.

The Federal government might consider increasing funding to the child care portion of their own LINC program (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). LINC provides language training and settlement support to adults, and provides what’s called “childminding” for children of LINC students. The childminders, many of whom are Early Childhood Educators, and therefore trained in promoting language and literacy development (including having a unique understanding of the importance of retaining the home language while learning a new language) are among the first points of contact to Canadian society for immigrant children and are well positioned to work with LINC instructors, who work with parents. Now, that’s a partnership that could support integration.

Maytree’s proposed (economic) immigration strategy

The Maytree Foundation held an online media event (teleconference and webinar) on their latest paper “Adjusting the Balance: Fixing Canada’s Economic Immigration Policies”. In the online Q&A after the presentation, Naomi Alboim informed us that she is now working on another paper that will address the live-in caregiver and seasonal agricultural worker programs. We look forward to an examination of family reunification and transnational families in the next paper.

NB: Maytree and Naomi Alboim used the term “family unification” v. family reunification. We like it!

Visit the Maytree Foundation site to download the current paper, the online presentation notes and after July 27th, the online media event.