Allow Asylum Seekers Access to Educational Childcare Now

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Allow Asylum Seekers Access to Educational Childcare Now

We, a group of asylum seekers, have formed a committee to demand access to subsidized educational childcare for our children. This service is currently available only to refugees whose status has already been formally approved (after waiting for two or more years). On April 10th, the Ministry of Families sent a letter addressed to the Centres de la petite enfance (CPEs) to clarify section 3 of the Reduced Contribution Regulation stating that children of asylum seekers are inadmissible for their services (as well as for subsidized and recognized educational services offered by Home Childcare Providers (HCPs)). Because we are also ineligible to receive advance payments of the tax credit for childcare expenses, our access to subsidized educational services is all the more important. This new policy serves to isolate us, both our children and ourselves, from the society to which we hope to contribute, and especially impacts women asylum seekers. Though no government body appears to be able to confirm the exact number of people impacted by this clarification to the regulation, we can safely state that there are hundreds of people who find ourselves in this situation.

Serious harm to vulnerable families. The exclusion of asylum seekers from subsidized childcare in Quebec has a devastating impact on their integration. While the candidates in the current election campaign endlessly insist on the importance of integration, this exclusion prevents asylum-seeking families from taking classes, from working and learning French, from participating in meetings or applying for jobs that they are qualified to hold. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has reduced the delay to issue work permits for asylum seekers to promote quicker economic integration and to decrease claims for social assistance. But without access to educational childcare that is affordable, secure, and high-quality while an asylum claim is processed, this all becomes impossible! Given the economic precarity of asylum seekers and the stated intention of all of the parties to ensure access to high-quality services to low-income families, it is imperative to put an end to this exclusion.

“It's very hard to live on social assistance, it's very little money... I wanted to learn French and stay in Montreal, but that wasn't possible."

Sam, an asylum seeker from Syria who arrived in May 2017, father of one child

French, the primary tool of integration. Asylum seekers want to learn French. They know that their full participation in society is directly tied to this capacity. But as parents, they must often go without French courses for lack of a childcare solution. Their children need access to high-quality, subsidized childcare spaces, in order to improve their chances of educational success. This type of educational service puts children in a situation to learn French and to participate in activities that will allow them to be more comfortable with and better prepared to enter school, which in turn reduces pressure on educational institutions, who will in turn receive students already familiar with French.

“Seeing this type of policy as an asylum seeker, we're given the sense that government wants to keep us on social assistance and at home with our kids, rather than to encourage us to work. I believe my son's learning and development will be delayed because he will be denied access to daycare."

Vladimyr, an asylum seeker from Haiti who arrived in June 2017

Discrimination with an acute impact on women and children. Subsidized childcare services (CPEs, HCPs, etc.) were set up to allow women to have professional life. Women asylum seekers and their children will accordingly bear the heavy cost of refused access to subsidized childcare services: they find themselves isolated, deprived of training, employment and income because they are more frequently single parents than men, and are more likely to stay at home (as of 2018, men still earn higher salaries than women in Quebec). They also directly suffer the consequences when their family income is reduced, and when their family is isolated with limited contact with the French language. The recent entry into force of Bill 144, An Act to amend the Education Act and other legislative provisions concerning mainly free educational services and compulsory school attendance, guarantees access to affordable education services to any person who is not a Quebec resident. Restricted access to subsidized childcare services, however, directly curtails children's access to educational and other spaces that are key to promoting their socialization.

“I can't integrate myself into society and learn French. Instead, I live on social assistance allotted by the government while awaiting my hearing date, which has still not been fixed. (...) This situation also has an impact on my son who can't socialize with other children his age: he spends his days alone with me. All the other children his age attend either junior kindergarten or daycare."

Blessing, a single mother with five children, who arrived from Nigeria in April and who had to turn down two job offers due to lack of access to affordable childcare

“I want to work, but I can't, because I have to stay home to look after my daughter... She needs to socialize, to learn and to integrate herself. I feel powerless, discouraged and exhausted because I'm unable to be involved in my new life here. I am afraid of the future."

Shamima, asylum seeker from Bangladesh who arrived in August 2017, single mother of a 2-year-old daughter

Quebec will also pay the price. Collectively, Quebec pays the price for this new directive when members of our society are excluded this way. It pays through lost opportunities and through isolated families who feel hopeless, and caught in a trap, at the very moment they should be beginning their new lives here in Quebec. It pays the price through lost skills and energy, by discouraging mastery of French and integration, by making vulnerable people even more fragile, and through needless obstacles to the educational success of migrant children.

Given the truly heavy and damaging consequences of the Ministry of Family's directive, we call on all political parties to commit to:

1- Amend the policy that currently prevents asylum seekers from accessing subsidized childcare services and from receiving advance payments of the tax credit for childcare expenses.

2- Establish a sufficient number of CPE spaces accessible to all children, regardless of their status, in accordance with the objectives of Bill 144.

This letter was co-written and signed by 34 asylum seekers and refugees in September 2018.

The following organizations support the letter:

Association Coopérative d'Économie Familiale de l'Est de Monréal (ACEF de l'Est) - Centre des femmes d'ici et d'ailleurs - Centre de recherche-action sur les relations raciales (CRARR) - Centre Justice et Foi - Clinique communautaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles - Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté - Comité d'aide aux réfugiés - Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain CSN - Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) - Conseil régional FTQ Montréal métropolitain - Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec (FAFMRQ) - Fédération des Femmes du Québec (FFQ) - Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE) - Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes - Ligue des droits et libertés - L'R des centres de femmes - Maison d'Haïti - La Maisonnée - Montréal-Nord Républik - Regroupement des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (RQCALACS) - Relais-femmes - Réseau d'action pour l'égalité des femmes immigrées et racisées du Québec (RAFIQ) - Réseau des femmes des Laurentides - Réseau des tables régionales des groupes de femmes du Québec - Réseau d'intervention auprès des personnes ayant subi la violence organisée - Réseau québécois de l'action communautaire autonome (RQ-ACA) - Service jésuite des réfugiés - Services juridiques communautaires de Pointe-Saint-Charles et Petite-Bourgogne - Solidarité sans frontières - Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI) - Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal (TGFM) - Table des regroupements provinciaux d'organismes communautaires et bénévoles - Volet femmes de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI) - Y des femmes

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