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South Asian Organization fights for affordable childcare
( Mar 19 2009 )

By Amit Gossai



With the upcoming provincial budget only days away, many are expecting cuts to daycare funding in Ontario.

This has caused a great deal of distress for many and several organizations are now taking a stand.

Members of the South Asian community have recently joined with other racialized immigrant communities to campaign against cuts to affordable childcare spaces.

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) made a strong appeal at a recent press conference at which they outlined a case for increased funding rather than a reduction of financial resources.

Jane Mercer, executive coordinator, Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care (TCBCC), said Toronto alone is on the brink of losing 6,000 childcare subsidies over the next several months.

“With 14,000 people on the waiting list for subsidies, clearly Toronto is being under-served and the current number of 24,000 spaces is not enough,” said Mercer.

Without a rock solid commitment of provincial funding past April 1, 2010 to cover shortfalls, municipalities would have to start cutting those childcare subsidies in September, Mercer predicted.

South Asian Women’s Rights Organization’s Sultana Jahangir said that if these spaces disappear women would have to remain at home and take on the role of housewife, yet again.

“We have worked very hard to get out of this situation. We have been fighting a long time with our spouse, with our family to get out of that,” she said. “Now if this should happen we would be pushed back into the past again in the house.”

CASSA’s executive director Nathan Shan noted that there has been a constant struggle advocating for affordable childcare in Ontario and across the country.

CASSA has partnered with the OCBCC and other organizations to make sure that the voices from marginalized communities are strengthened.

Shan said the campaign wants the province to put much more emphasis on a poverty reduction strategy for childcare, whether it’s a joint initiative between the three levels of governments or the province taking up the leadership.

“Because it’s a tough time economically, it doesn’t mean that the poorest and the poor needs to be ignored,” he said. “When we are wealthy, we ignore the poor and when we are struggling economically, we tend to say there is no money.”

Jahangir revealed that during two years of investigation among South Asian women, poverty and isolation appeared to be the main barriers to childcare.

At least 50 per cent have a graduate degree from their homeland, while 40 per cent had a master’s degree.

Jahangir noted that South Asian women come to Canada with foreign credentials that have yet to be recognized by the Canadian Government.

Local agencies are trying to convey the provincial government that cuts in childcare subsidies will create considerable hardship for working class families across Ontario, with racialized and immigrant communities being especially vulnerable.

“Toronto’s immigrant families have proportionately more children and far higher rates of poverty within their communities,” Shan said.

Partners in the campaign include Campaign 2000; Children’s Aid Society Toronto; CASSA; OCBCC; TCBCC; South Asian Women’s rights Organization and South Asian Women’s Centre.

The OCBCC and its partners are calling on the McGuinty Government to invest $600 million over two years which would save 22,000 childcare subsidies that are threatened by expired federal funds, create 7,500 new affordable childcare spaces and create 1,500 new jobs for Early Childhood Educators and other staff.

“This is one of the most important budgets in many years for early learning and child care programs. As many as 22,000 childcare subsidies are at risk without a serious commitment from this provincial government,” said Jenny Robinson, executive director, OCBCC. “In addition, we will see a longer and deeper recession without significant investments in affordable child care so that parents are able to work or retrain.”

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will deliver the 2009 Ontario Budget at approximately 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.

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