Statement made on 15 December 2009 by Senator Art Eggleton
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Honourable senators, I rise today to make a statement on the government's response to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology report, Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps, which was adopted by the Senate on June 22, 2009.
Honourable senators, I am disappointed that the government did not implement the recommendations in our report. The government does not want to appoint a minister of state for children and youth, even though we have a Minister of State for Seniors and even though it would send a clear signal that Canada understands the importance of young people to its future.
The government does not want to have a permanent national advisory council on children to draw on the best minds from across the country on how best to support parents and children.
The consultation process they cite in their letter happened over two years ago, and many from the early childhood education and care community tell me that consultations are no longer happening.
The government does not want to develop a pan-Canadian framework with the provinces and territories that would recognize and respect federal, provincial and territorial leadership as essential elements of developing early childhood education. Instead, they are content with the patchwork of provincial programs that exist today.
Instead of becoming a champion for the 21st century family, the government has essentially abdicated that role to others. This is disappointing because national leadership is crucial at this time. Now more than ever, our children need the right skills and knowledge to ensure that they will manage the many challenges they are facing in school, in society and in the workforce.
In addition, as our report pointed out overwhelmingly, scientific research shows that the early years are vital to this development because that period sets the foundation for confidence and skill development, which help children to become highly literate and mathematically competent later in life.
Honourable senators, based on the government's response, I am not sure that the government understands that early learning is about much more than simply the transferring of care giving responsibility from a parent to someone else. It is about shaping our future by investing in our children and by creating a system that will help every child succeed.
In those areas where the federal government has direct responsibility, such as for Aboriginal children, the response from the government is practically silent. Sadly, the record in this area continues to be discouraging. Incidents of behavioural challenges, as well as cognitive and language delays, are more prevalent in Aboriginal communities than in other Canadian communities, and could be aided by providing quality early childhood education and care.
In closing, honourable senators, as the Honourable Margaret McCain said before the committee, "The best single investment Canada can make for social justice and the optimal development of our children is to get them off to a good early start by building a high-quality evidence-based early childhood development system."