Daycare in Nunavut: its up to people to fill the gap
“Anyone from the public can initiate and create a daycare”
Special to Nunatsiaq News
When I was pregnant a couple of years back, it was suggested to me that I should list my name in a daycare right away, as the waiting list for space was long.
I therefore put my name in for a couple of daycares in Iqaluit. Two years later, I’m still waiting for a call. I had incorrectly assumed the wait-list wouldn’t be that long.
I was lucky enough to have a spouse who was willing to give up his job and care for our baby full time after my maternity leave was over.
Others aren’t that lucky – I see parents struggling with having to choose between keeping a job or continuing with their college courses or leaving their child in dubious situations and getting stressed over child care.
After a year or so on a single income, I decided to do some research on child care generally. I realized just sitting there and waiting wasn’t going to do me any good.
As I live in Iqaluit now, most of my factual research relates to Iqaluit. But because childcare is so universally important, I hope this helps parents ib the rest of Nunavut as well.
Most often, it is generally assumed that government is responsible for opening up or maintaining daycares.
This is not the case. Government is responsible only for childcare legislation and monitoring compliance with regulatory requirements.
In Nunavut, we have the Child Daycare Act, which stipulates that a daycare has to meet certain requirements in order for it to be operated and granted a license; such as fire codes, safety and capacity assurances, building codes, health standards, parents’ rights and transparency as well as assurances that daycares hire child care workers who can meet certain standards to provide quality care (ie, a criminal record check). In Nunavut, we have “Early Childhood Officers” who inspects daycares annually to ensure regulatory compliance.
Separate from legislative oversight, government may provide funding for daycare for social policy reasons but ultimately it is up to society – the public – to initiate and fill a need for child daycares.
Both federal and territorial governments are generally quite supportive through funding, because they understand that without childcare, many would not have the means to be employed or pursue educational goals.
Other private or non-governmental institutional funding programs can be combined with government funding programs. Operational costs of daycares are also partly covered through user fees, (eg., a parent is charged a set amount for each child each month), as well as through user fee subsidies made available to parents. Daycare societies can fundraise as well.
In Nunavut, the Government of Canada and the Government of Nunavut combine government funding for daycares and funnel it through the Government of Nunavut’s Early Childhood Education Department. The funding can be used for the start-up costs of a daycare and basic operational costs.
Anyone from the public can initiate and create a daycare, as long as they are able to meet the regulatory requirements and find the financial means to do so. To create a daycare, a group from the public has to form a society and meet the regulatory requirements of the Government of Nunavut’s Society’s Act.
In the last 10 to 15 years, demand for daycare space in Nunavut has grown exponentially high.
But the supply has not kept up with the demand. The daycares are brimmed to capacity and the waiting lists are growing longer and longer by the minute.
In Iqaluit, there are six daycares and three pre-school or after school programs. There are several private home care options in Iqaluit as well, but those are quickly filled up by desperate parents.
The six daycares in Iqaluit are limited to 203 spaces. I did not include the number of spaces for after school or pre-school programs as there can be separate departmental funding programs for those.
But the waiting lists for all daycares amount approximately 390 children in Iqaluit.
This means Iqaluit needs to open anywhere between 12 and 20 new daycares. The numbers are difficult to calculate exactly as quite a few children may be on the waiting lists for between two and six daycares each, creating possible duplication.
The range of space for each daycare varies between 20 and 44 spaces and all have groupings for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, eg., eight infants and 16 toddlers.
This all relates to capacity and whether a child will adequately be attended to for quality standards and emergency preparedness, such as one worker for every 3 infants, pursuant to the Child Day Care Act.
Waiting lists are anywhere between 38 and 80 names long. When I’ve called a couple of daycares, I’ve been bluntly told, “Let’s just say it’s quite likely your child will never come here,” meaning it’s useless to even add my name.
I could get upset over the lack of daycare space and pull my hair out. Or I could get creative and make the pitch with other upset parents to open up several more daycares.
It’s more likely my child would end up in a daycare before she turns five if I gather up enough parents willing to:
• create a society;
• lease land;
• find or construct a building that meets building, fire, safety, health and capacity codes;
• run a society with good financial upkeep;
• find a director;
• hire child care workers and pay sufficient salaries; and
• run the daycare, including meeting worker’s compensation and employment regulatory requirements, income tax laws, payroll deductions, financial planning and auditing, society reporting and ensure regulatory compliance.
In the interim, I think it’s important to raise the issue of wait-list policies. As independent societies, it is their prerogative to have a wait-list policy or not and each daycare has exercised this prerogative in different ways.
A couple of daycares or pre-school programs have wait list policies while others are ad hoc, on a first-come, first-served basis.
I found the ones with the policies a little extreme. One has a requirement to be a board member for a child to be guaranteed a space.
Thus, it becomes a popularity game to be elected as board member in order to grab that elusive space – the more literate or better educated you are, the more likely you’ll be elected – as it takes a lot of effort and knowledge to run a society.
Another daycare has a policy where a child is prioritized in preference to another sibling already being in the daycare as well as providing preferential waiting list prioritization to an elected board member.
A couple of daycares don’t have formal policies, but have consistent track records of providing space in accordance with the first-come, first-served policy.
One daycare will tell me exactly where I was on the wait-list a year ago — 35 — and where I am today — 21 — and accepts a child only through the numbering system, without preferential treatment for anybody.
But other daycares are a bit messy and won’t keep track of records or document names in a numbering system.
I am all for the volunteer daycare board member who has to put in hours for daycare society upkeep.
But the issue I wanted to raise was that if both governments funnel daycare funding through the Early Childhood Program and public funds are used for daycare, as well as parents receiving user subsidies from public funds, it raises the question of why we spend public money on few elite board members who run daycares with preferential policies.
A good friend of mine had her child placed number four on a wait-list and anticipated a call until she was bumped further down by a board member’s priority spacing.
A parent can access the annual financial statements at Nunavut Legal Registries for a public society or attend a daycare’s AGM.
This can be a good way for parents to question where the daycare received most of its income and how it was spent, including board honourarium fees, which is the norm for compensation of volunteer time (a preferential treatment for daycare space is an indirect benefit for a board member as the member does not need to worry about lack of daycare space and adequate childcare to maintain employment).
The Department of Education can go a little further by inserting clauses in program contribution agreements that where a daycare society receives public funding, it adopts a fair, transparent and consistent wait list policy, including a fair and consistent maintenance of waitlists.
Information about daycares in Nunavut can be found here:
• Childcare Facility and Licensing
• Early Childhood Reports:
• Agreements and Reports:
• Home Page – Early Childhood Programs
• Licensed family day home requirements
• User Subsidy
• List of Daycares
• Starting a Licensed Daycare
• Report on Childcare in Nunavut 2007
• Government of Canada Weblink