children playing

10,000 daycare activists rally at stadium [CA-QC]

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Derfel, Aaron
Publication Date: 
28 Nov 2005

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It was part political protest, part Sunday afternoon children's theatre.

More than 10,000 parents and youngsters, as well as daycare workers and union activists, crammed into a cavernous indoor court at Jarry tennis stadium yesterday. They were all demanding that the provincial government scrap Bill 124, a plan to centralize the province's daycare system.

Even though Family Minister Carole Theberge promised on Friday to amend some of the bill's more controversial provisions, that didn't stop speaker after speaker from denouncing the government.

Michelle Asselin, president of the Federation des femmes du Quebec, pointed out that women have worked for more than 30 years building the province's daycare network, yet the government is keen to destroy all of that.

Opponents of Bill 124 have raised fears that the law would dismantle Quebec's $7-a-day daycare program and that its early-education aspect risks being shunted aside. Small daycare operators have accused the minister of opening the door for major U.S. chains to move in and take over Quebec's system.

Theberge, however, has maintained that under Bill 142, the province's 1,004 daycare centres will stay open, that no one will lose their jobs and that there will be the same number of spaces for children.

Dominique Delambre, who showed up at yesterday's rally with his wife and his 5-year-old daughter, said he suspected that the thrust behind Bill 124 is privatization.

Annie Gauthier, a daycare educator who lives in Shefford, said she's opposed to the government reform because daycare centres - known as Centres de la petite enfance - would be controlled by co-ordinating offices.

"Parents who have concerns about their child won't be able to call the daycare centre but the 'bureau co-ordonnateur,' which will be like any other government department," he added.

Sylvie Laroche, the mother of a 4-year-old daughter with a hearing impairment, said she is worried that there would be less support for daycare workers under the proposed bill.

"And this would probably be reflected in poorer service for the children," said Laroche, who lives near Granby.

The event was organized by unions and attended by a number of Parti Quebecois MNAs, including official opposition leader Louise Harel.

Many of the daycare workers wore tiaras and waved placards saying: ''For the love of our children, say No to Bill 124.'' The children danced and played as singers and clowns - notably Chocolat and Nicolletta - entertained them.

- reprinted from the Montreal Gazette