Two asylum seekers have filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission after being denied access to subsidized daycare.
They say it prevents them from entering the workforce and beginning their lives in the province.
Vladimyr Mathieu came to Montreal from Haiti in June 2017 and is still waiting for his refugee status to be approved. While his daughter has a place in a centre de la petite enfance (CPE), his son, who was born in Canada, was denied a spot by the same daycare.
That's because Quebec's Families Ministry clarified their regulations in April, saying only those with refugee status can get a spot. A spokesperson for the ministry told CBC News some information that could have caused "confusion" was circulating before that date.
The government is allowing those who got a spot in a CPE before April 10 to remain.
"If we don't find a solution, either I or my wife will have to stop working and stay at home with our son," said Mathieu in an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Wednesday.
Private daycare at least $40/day
The couple looked into private childcare, but the cheapest they could find cost $40 per day. And while they're eligible for a tax credit to help with that financial burden, as asylum seekers they cannot get the credit in advance.
Mathieu says the family does not have enough savings to cover that cost until the credit is applied when they file their taxes.
While it can take a month or two to gain a work permit, getting refugee status can take more than a year.
"It's a matter of human rights, it's a matter of equal chances, equality for the children," said Claude-Catherine Lemoine, also speaking Daybreak.
Lemoine a lawyer at the Community Legal Services of Pointe-St-Charles and Little Burgundy, one of the organizations supporting the complainants.
An open letter sent by the Comité des demandeurs et demandeuses d'asile pour l'accès aux garderies, which is made up of asylum seekers, asks for them to be given access to childcare so they can work in the province like other Quebecers. The letter was co-signed by 25 community groups.
Removed from workforce
"That's why we created subsidized daycare." said Lemoine, adding that in the short term it's beneficial to get more people in the workforce and lessen asylum seekers' use of welfare payments.
In the long term, if their refugee status is approved, she said it gives them a head start in their new life instead of spending years in limbo.
The Ministry of Families said it was not aware of the human rights complaint when contacted by CBC.
Mathieu says he and his wife both need to work to make ends meet. For now, their son is being cared for by a friend while they are at work. However, he says that's only a temporary solution.