Twenty-five years ago, Quebec adopted a new family policy. This policy is at the origin of the creation of early childhood centers (CPE), a model recognized worldwide, which is still the envy of many nations today and which is a great source of pride for Quebec.
Children at the heart of our choices, yesterday and today
In 1997, our society was marked by an increased presence of women in the labor market, an increase in the number of single-parent and blended families, and a worrying increase in job insecurity.
The new provisions of the family policy were therefore intended to develop early childhood education services with the aim of ensuring universal support for families and increased assistance for low-income families, facilitating the reconciliation of family and professional activities, promoting the development optimal number of children as well as equal opportunities.
In addition, the introduction of this policy resulted in the establishment of a unified family allowance for children and a parental insurance plan to adequately replace income during maternity leave and parental leave.
A lot of ground has been covered over the past 25 years and this policy—rather avant-garde at the time—has led to many accomplishments. However, the challenges of our society have continued to evolve, we must take this into account, adjust our ways of doing things and dream further.
Are we doing enough for our children, for our families?
In 2017, on the occasion of the 20e anniversary of the family policy, former Prime Minister Pauline Marois delivered a very clear message: “In this endless march which aims to allow each and everyone to fulfill their potential and their dreams, immobility does not exist. We advance or we retreat. To take stock of our progress and our setbacks, we must question the foundations of the orientations we have favored, the path taken and the results obtained.
So, while it is important to recognize and build on our achievements, the status quo is not an option. First and foremost, we must focus on prevention and act early, right from the start of pregnancy. We must act together, in a spirit of collaboration, break down the silos and break down the barriers that limit families’ access to the services they need. A local approach must be advocated to better reach the children and their families. Concrete, intense and continuous action is needed to avoid social inequalities.
Public policies have an undeniable impact on the future of our society. Let’s make sure that they can adequately support the development of our little ones by offering them the same chances of success.
Toddlers represent 10% of our society and 100% of our future. Let’s place early childhood at the very heart of our societal priorities. We all have to win!
Elise Bonneville, Director of the Early Childhood Collective