Nunavut lags behind rest of Canada for child care use, stats show

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Children explore different activities at the Pirurvik preschool in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, in this file photo. A recent StatsCan report states Nunavut trails behind the rest of the country in accessing early learning and daycare. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)
Susie Kununak wants to work in an office and wants to support her community of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, in Arctic Canada — but she can’t because she’s unable to secure regular child care for her daughter.

“I see how they look at it as, ‘Oh she has a child; she won’t be able to get a babysitter; there is no daycare; we can’t hire her,'” Kununak said, a mom of a two-year-old toddler.

“Sometimes someone is available and sometimes no one is available, so it’s just hard to show up at work and promise them you are going to be there.”

Many young parents are struggling with the same issue of not being able to work or go to school because of a lack of daycare in her community, she said.

Across Nunavut, nearly 40 per cent of parents are struggling to find daycare, according to Statistics Canada.

According to a recent StatsCan report, the territory trails behind the rest of the country in accessing early learning and daycare. There are 37 per cent of Nunavut children five years old and under in daycare or an early learning program, whereas the national average is 60 per cent.

Susie Kununak with her daughter, Helena Erin Ubluriaq, in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. Kununak says if she had reliable access to child care, she would go out and look for a job or go to school.

The report states that the main reason people aren’t putting their kids in child care is because a parent stays home.

For those who are looking for child care, the biggest hurdle they face is a lack of availability. After availability, the report says the next biggest barrier is affordability.

‘Going to be a challenge,’ says parent

Tara Braund lives in Iqaluit, eastern Nunavut, and says she doesn’t blame the daycare or their staff, but the system.

“We were pregnant and we knew it was going to be a challenge, so we put ourselves on a list before we had a baby to make sure when the time came to go back to work, we’d have a spot,” Braund said.

Braund currently has a spot for her now two-year-old child in private daycare, but it’s temporary. At the end of the summer, Braund will be in a pinch. She still hasn’t heard back on any of the wait lists and thinks she’ll need to fly in her mom to babysit.

I think the people are being let down.

Conor Goddard, Iqaluit parent

Conor Goddard and his wife Tracy Partridge moved with their children from Kuujjuaq, Que., to Iqaluit just over two years ago.

Goddard said a subsidized daycare program made child care accessible in his previous community, but that’s not the case in Iqaluit.

“It was concerning to ourselves to a point, but [also] for other people in general, as far as a financial commitment can go and how hindering that can be,” Goddard said, explaining he sees the financial impact daycare could have on a single-parent family.

“It makes sense to spend money on your children. However, you can see when the system is not supporting families, that can be a real piece that contributes to financial stress.”

Conor Goddard and his wife Tracy Partridge moved with their children from Kuujjuaq, Que., to Iqaluit just over two years ago. He says there needs to a systemic solution that addresses a lack of available and affordable daycare in Inuktitut. (Angela Hill/CBC News)

A new daycare is set to open in Iqaluit in September. Tundra Buddies Day Care Society, the group operating it, says the creation of the daycare was in response to a limited number of spots in the community.

In Kuujjuaq, his son was in Inuktitut daycare and Goddard thinks that should be the standard.

“Without a systemic solution that addresses a lack of available and affordable daycare in Inuktitut first, I think the people are being let down.”

Feeling overwhelmed and helpless is how Gjoa Haven mom Kununak describes what it’s like to not be able to move forward because of a lack of child care.

She wants to see a change in her community.

“If I had reliable access to child care, I would put my daughter in child care and I would go out and look for a job or school — something positive to keep my kids’ future bright and happy.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian gov directs $1.8M to legal support for Nunavut’s women and children, CBC News

Sweden: Inequality a problem in Swedish schools: UNICEF report, Radio Sweden

United States: Why are people moving away from Alaska?, Alaska Public Media

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Angela Hill, CBC News

Angela Hill, CBC News

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