Asylum seekers in Quebec have taken to the courts in hopes that their children can access spots in subsidized daycares.
Their access to affordable childcare had been withdrawn by the Liberal government in April 2018 and the class-action lawsuit alleges that this discriminates against women who want to seek work as they wait for their refugee status.
The children of asylum seekers were allowed up to one year in subsidized daycare but a directive from Luc Fortin — the minister of families at the time — modified the interpretation of that policy, barring access to the service.
The mothers of preschool aged children waiting for their status were henceforth forced to stay home even if they had a work permit, a situation that disproportionately affects single mothers, according to the lawsuit.
The law firm representing the women, alongside refugee rights organizations and a group of 130 health professionals made presentations to new Families Minister Mathieu Lacombe, who said he was open to changing the policy. He cautioned that the province is negotiating with the federal government to receive additional funding to help with the influx of refugee claimants in 2017 and 2018 and that the issue of daycare spots may take time.
The plaintiffs replied that the decision to give access to childcare is exclusively within the province’s jurisdiction and that Quebec hasn’t waited on federal funding to provide healthcare, public school and other government services.
Most asylum seekers don’t have sufficient resources to pay for private daycare and must often turn to social assistance, according to the suit. It adds that the work permit, in these cases, becomes irrelevant because babysitting children prevents people from working but also enrolling in French classes. About 40 per cent of asylum seekers speak neither English nor French upon arrival.