Senate report on early childhood education and care ~ a follow-up

In April 2009, the Senate released a report on early childhood education and care, calling for – among other things – a collaborative effort among federal government departments to address the early learning and child care needs of newcomer children. (See the May 3, 2009 post on immigrantchildren.ca for full details).

On December 15, 2009, a follow-up statement was made by Senator The Honourable Art Eggleton. It is repeated here, fyi.

Hon. Art Eggleton: “Honourable senators, I rise today to make a statement on the government’s response to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology report, Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps, which was adopted by the Senate on June 22, 2009.

“Honourable senators, I am disappointed that the government did not implement the recommendations in our report. The government does not want to appoint a minister of state for children and youth, even though we have a Minister of State for Seniors and even though it would send a clear signal that Canada understands the importance of young people to its future.

“The government does not want to have a permanent national advisory council on children to draw on the best minds from across the country on how best to support parents and children.

“The consultation process they cite in their letter happened over two years ago, and many from the early childhood education and care community tell me that consultations are no longer happening.

“The government does not want to develop a pan-Canadian framework with the provinces and territories that would recognize and respect federal, provincial and territorial leadership as essential elements of developing early childhood education. Instead, they are content with the patchwork of provincial programs that exist today.

“Instead of becoming a champion for the 21st century family, the government has essentially abdicated that role to others. This is disappointing because national leadership is crucial at this time. Now more than ever, our children need the right skills and knowledge to ensure that they will manage the many challenges they are facing in school, in society and in the workforce.

“In addition, as our report pointed out overwhelmingly, scientific research shows that the early years are vital to this development because that period sets the foundation for confidence and skill development, which help children to become highly literate and mathematically competent later in life.

“Honourable senators, based on the government’s response, I am not sure that the government understands that early learning is about much more than simply the transferring of care giving responsibility from a parent to someone else. It is about shaping our future by investing in our children and by creating a system that will help every child succeed.

“In those areas where the federal government has direct responsibility, such as for Aboriginal children, the response from the government is practically silent. Sadly, the record in this area continues to be discouraging. Incidents of behavioural challenges, as well as cognitive and language delays, are more prevalent in Aboriginal communities than in other Canadian communities, and could be aided by providing quality early childhood education and care.

“In closing, honourable senators, as the Honourable Margaret McCain said before the committee, “The best single investment Canada can make for social justice and the optimal development of our children is to get them off to a good early start by building a high-quality evidence-based early childhood development system.”

Feds seek input into changes to the live-in caregiver program

As reported in various media, the federal Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has introduced changes to the live-in caregiver program (LCP). See for example, The Toronto Star’s “Good package of changes to live-in caregivers” (Dec 22/09). Briefly, changes being proposed include:

  • Four years of work to complete the two-year requirement for application for permanent residence
  • Overtime hours to be calculated in the above
  • One medical exam, at time of application to participate in the LCP
  • Travel costs to be paid by the employee
  • A telephone help-line for caregivers.

The details on proposed changes can be found in the Canada Gazette and/or the CIC website. Details were published on Dec 19/09. Comments will be accepted up until Jan 18, 2010 and should be directed to:

Maia Welbourne, Director, Temporary Resident Policy and Program Development Division
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
8th floor, Jean Edmonds Tower South
365 Laurier Avenue W, Ottawa ON K1A 1L1
Tel: 613.957.0001
Fax: 613.954.0850
maia.welbourne@cic.gc.ca

Selected related items:

Temporary Foreign Workers and Non-Status Workers – Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (May 2009)

Gender-based barriers to settlement and integration for live-in caregivers: A review of the literature by Denise Spitzer and Sara Torres (Nov 2009)

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.

Call for survey participation: HR implications in early childhood education

The Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (CCHRSC) is undertaking a research project examining the human resource implications of emerging issues in early childhood education.

The research project includes conducting preliminary research on emerging issues in ECEC including involvement of the formal education sector, the inclusion of children with special needs, the inclusion of children from varying socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, school-age and family-home care.

Project team members are inviting participation in an online survey. If you have any questions, please contact Kathleen Flanagan or Jane Beach at kathleen.flanagan@yahoo.ca or janebeach@shaw.ca.

The survey closes at midnight Nov 13/09.

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:

Ontario’s McGuinty urged to ‘do the right thing’ for immigrant children

There have been a number of initiatives in the last ten years (and previously) to  address the patchwork of services and supports for families with young children in Ontario.

In the Harris/Eves government, the Ontario Early Years Centres were an attempt to respond to the Mustard/McCain report, The Early Years Study which called for an early child development and parenting model of service, to serve as Tier 1 entry to the formal school system. (See Ontario Early Years: A Very Brief History, at the Health Nexus Sante blog).

The Best Start initiative was launched by the next government, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals, and saw communities collaborating in Best Start Networks, working to bring services and supports together in ‘hubs’ for children from birth to age six.

This summer, The Premier’s early learning advisor, Dr Charles Pascal was asked to look at how to best prepare young children to succeed in school and released With Our Best Future in Mind. Pascals’ report calls for many of the same options of previous investigations but with clear – and implementable – steps.

For immigrant children and families, the system proposed by Pascal are especially important. Pascal envisions a system of child- and family-centred schools, with access to information, resources, supports and services for parents and caregivers and full-day kindergarten and early learning and child care for children. Pascal’s system builds upon the work – and success of both the Ontario Early Years Centres and the Best Start Networks.

As the province with the largest number of immigrant families with young children, Premier McGuinty would serve immigrant families very well in adopting the plan. I cannot think of a better way to welcome newcomer children and families to their new communities than by having a school act as the central point of entry into the myriad of social, health and educational services. Such community-based school centres (staffed by kindergarten teachers and Early Childhood Educators and other family support workers) will have expertise to assist the integration of newcomer families with young children into their communities.

For parents with existing resources (time, funds, language skills and peer support and/or extended family members to help), it is difficult enough to navigate the system. Imagine not having the language, the networks, or knowing where to go to get this kind of information. That is the reality for immigrant families.  The school – an institution universally recognized as the centre of a community – is the best place to act as a central (and a multiple-) point of entry to the world of health, educational and support services for immigrant families with young children.

{see June 16/09 post for more on how the Pascal plan addresses early child diversity}

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.

Deportation as immigration policy: A call for papers

Deportation and the Development of Citizenship is the name of the conference being co-sponsored by the Centre on Policy, Migration and Society (COMPAS). The conference will be held Dec 11-12/09 in Oxford.

Papers are sought that address several themes, including: Who are the main subjects of deportation power and how have they changed over time as a result of political and social concerns? In what ways does subjection to deportation power map on to patterns of race, gender, and age?

Deadline for abstracts of 300 words, and a short biographical outline or CV are due by Sept 20/09 and should be sent to Dr Emanuela Paoletti, at emanuela.paoletti@qeh.ox.ac.uk. Prospective paper givers will be informed if their paper has been accepted by 30 September 2009.

Related link: Forced Migration Online.

Francophone female refugees separated from their children, a study

The Ontario Metropolis Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration Studies (CERIS) has released its latest Policy Matters issue. The Sept 2009 edition is a summary of a report entitled An Analysis of the challenges faced by francophone female refugees living in Ontario and separated from their chilren.

Authors Emile Greon, Michele Kerist, and Francosie Magunira examine the challenges faced by Francophone refugee mothers in Ontario who are separated from their children. The authors make several recommendations for policy change, including:

1) Allow children and spouses to join women refugee claimants, and have their paperwork process from within Canada.
2)  Improve the availability of legal information about family reunification in French.
3)  Ease the bureaucratic process.
4)  Create positions for case workers to follow individual cases and track delays.
5) Enact an “action plan” to systematically present the findings to all stakeholders within one year.

The study was funded by the Ontario Movement for Francophone Immigrant Women.