The federal government has a direct role in funding early childhood programs on First Nations reserves, for military personnel, for federal prisoners and for refugees and immigrants to Canada. Funding levels have largely remained stagnant and some have been reduced for 2014–2015.
Four federal departments are responsible for early learning programs to Aboriginal people: Health Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). These departments transfer funds to First Nations communities for on-reserve and off-reserve school tuitions; Aboriginal Head Start on- and off-reserve; family support and maternal and child health programs on- and offreserve; and the First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative. In addition, through intergovernmental agreements with Alberta and Ontario, the federal government reimburses a portion of the costs for on-reserve early childhood programming.
AANDC also transfers funds to First Nations for schools onreserve and for tuitions for students attending schools off-reserve. Federal transfers for education have been held at a 2 percent increase annually since 1996, an amount that has not kept pace with inflation nor funding increases in provincial schools. In 2012, on a per capita basis, AANDC provided about $3,000 less per full time Aboriginal student than what was spent on students in provincial schools.3, 4
Flatlined funding challenges First Nations communities to provide equitable programming for their children.5 Tuitions for First Nations students attending provincial schools have increased, putting First Nations in deficit positions with local school boards. The development of full-day kindergarten in some provinces has not rolled out at the same rate in First Nations communities because federal funding does not recognize the increased costs. In addition, obstacles to the recruitment and retention of qualified educators are magnified in Aboriginal communities. Administrators and educators are not required to have the same qualifications as educators working in provincial schools and programs. They do not have access to the same supports or professional development opportunities, nor do they enjoy the same remuneration or job security available to the largely unionized education sectors in the provinces.
Funding formulas and agreements between First Nation communities and four federal government departments and their provincial counterparts create a jurisdictional quagmire that impedes service development and provision.6 First Nations communities face additional social and structural barriers. The pain of residential schools has left a legacy of suspicion of group educational programs for children, particularly those influenced by non-Aboriginals.7
The Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces supports Military Family Resource Centres in Canada and abroad.8 Their mandate covers child and youth development, parenting and family supports. Some provide child care on-site, while others act as a referral service. A 2009 report identified a significant gap between the need for and the availability of child care services for Canadian Forces families. In particular, there was a lack of emergency care to deal with deployment, evening and weekend work, respite care and casualty support. Despite the shortage of trained educators for Canadian Forces programs, there is no strategy for training or recruitment.9
The Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) supports activities targeted to children between birth and 6 years of age living in challenging circumstances. These programs are funded through ministerial agreements between the Public Health Agency of Canada and provinces/territories, and are managed through joint management committees in each province/territory.
Approximately two-thirds of federally sentenced women have dependent children. Correctional Service Canada mother–child programs allow preschool-age children to reside with their mother with the option of attending preschool programs in the community or in the prison.10 At the time of writing, only one facility—Edmonton—has the program, and only one child is enrolled.11
The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration offers funding for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC). A child care component, available for children ages 6 months to 6 years, helps parents attend LINC classes by covering the costs of informal care on-site or in local licensed child care centres.12 Funding was reduced in the 2014 budget.
The Child Care Human Resources Sector Council was one of the industry councils funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Through research and networking, it developed and disseminated information and tools for early childhood educators and progam operators. Funding for all councils ended in March 2013.
The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), developed jointly by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Statistics Canada, followed the development of children in Canada through regular monitoring of factors that influence their well-being. Its final report was tabled in 2012. Statistics Canada developed one round of data collection with the Survey of Young Canadians with a questionnaire based on the NLSCY.13 The file is now inactive.
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3. PressProgress, December 11, 2013. “5 things you should know about aboriginal education funding.” Retrieved from www.pressprogress.ca/en/post/5-things-you-should-know-aboutaboriginal-education-funding.
4. Federal Funding Levels for First Nations K-12 Education. Retrieved from www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1349140116208/1349140158945.
5. Assembly of First Nations. (2010). First Nations Education Funding. Retrieved from www.afn.ca/uploads/files/education/fact_sheet_-_fn_education_funding_final.pdf.
6. Evaluation Services Public Health Agency of Canada. (March 2012). Evaluation of the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities Program at the Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved from www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/about_apropos/evaluation/reports-rapports/2011-2012/ahsunc-papacun/summary-resume-eng.php#executive_summary.
7. Greenwood, M. (2001). An overview of the development of Aboriginal early childhood services in Canada. Retrieved fromwww.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED456954.
8. Military Family Resource Centres. Retrieved from www.familyforce.ca/EN/Pages/map.aspx.
9. Military Family Services, Policy and Program Development. (2009). Canadian Forces Child Care stakeholder assessment report. Retrieved from www.cfmws.com/en/AboutUs/MFS/FamilyResearch/Documents/Other%20Research/Child%20Care%20Stakeholder%20Assessment%20Report%20E.pdf
10. Corrections Services Canada. Mother Child Program. Retrieved from www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/prgrm/fsw/pro02-5-eng.shtml.
11. Personal communications. Sue Delanoy, Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan.
12. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2004). Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program.Retrieved from www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/evaluation/linc/index.asp.
13. Statistics Canada. (2012). Survey of Young Canadians. Retrieved from http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p2SV.pl?Function=getSurvey&SDDS=5179
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