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Parents, provincial childcare advocates want answers on Beausoleil daycare closure

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Feibel, Adam
Publication Date: 
30 Aug 2015



Concerned parents and provincial childcare advocates worry that a publicly run French-language daycare in Lowertown that closes Monday will no longer be managed by the City of Ottawa when it reopens after renovations.

Nearly 50 families will be taking their children to different daycares starting in September when the city closes the Beausoleil Child Care Centre for a two-year-long repair job to the York Street building. The affected families who said they were “caught by surprise” by the closure formed a group called SOS Beausoleil in the hope of keeping the daycare centre from closing.

Beausoleil, one of two French-language preschool daycares run by the city, normally offers care to 49 children in Lowertown and Sandy Hill, with 45 of the spots dedicated to low-income families.

Parents and some supporters plan to rally outside Beausoleil on Monday to protest the closure.

When parents approached their local city councillor, Mathieu Fleury, last week prior to a committee meeting at city hall, Fleury said the building space would be committed to a francophone daycare once it reopens, but he could not guarantee that it would be managed by the city.

He said that’s because the city will be part of a provincewide review of childcare services in late 2015 or early 2016 under the Child Care and Early Years Act. The act, which comes into effect Monday, will look at revising the planning and implementation of childcare services in Ontario.

Fleury said the province seems to be forming its new childcare criteria around a primarily “schools-first” strategy, under which public schools are the preferred location for daycare centres.

“Is (Beausoleil) still going to be a city-managed daycare, or is it going to be a different provider offering a French daycare at that location? That’s what I don’t know,” he said. “But the same goes the other way — we can’t say that any changes will occur, either.”

That uncertainty doesn’t sit well with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.

“Municipally operated childcare is a really important part of childcare here in Ontario,” said Carolyn Ferns, the organization’s public policy and government relations co-ordinator.

“Municipalities have a role to provide childcare centres in places where it’s needed, and I think that Beausoleil is one of those.”

Ferns said studies by University of Toronto academics have found that municipally managed daycares are often better overall than other forms of childcare.

The City of Ottawa currently manages 11 early childhood centres — formerly 12 with Beausoleil — which account for 355 of the 28,000 children at daycares within its borders.

In Ontario, only about six per cent of daycares are publicly managed, with 74 per cent run by private non-profits and about 20 per cent run by for-profit companies, according to the advocacy group.

Etienne Trépanier, one of the parents leading the SOS Beausoleil group, said he worries the city may relinquish operations of the daycare sometime between its closure and reopening.

There are further concerns that other municipally run francophone centres would follow suit.

“That’s our fear,” said Trépanier.

Fleury said he doesn’t anticipate that any changes to the province’s childcare services would reduce the total number of childcare spaces or subsidies in Ottawa.

By now, all the children at Beausoleil have been relocated to other nearby daycares, but parents and advocates say they hope the Beausoleil group will stick together.

“They have a really strong and passionate group of parents and staff that want to keep the program together, and I think that the City of Ottawa should be supporting them,” said Ferns.

-reprinted from Ottawa Citizen