Equal Benefits for All Children sign now


Feb 6 2005

Beverley Smith, Canadian activist for childrens rights and Yvonne Coupal of Citizens in Favour of Equal Government Childcare Subsidies for All Children (Les Citoyen(ne)s En Faveur de lEquite Fiscale des Subventions pour Soins de Garde Pour Tous les Enfants), Montreal, and Helen Chris, national president of Kids First Parent Association of Canada have announced an open letter to all MPs challenging the upcoming federal budget to include benefits for all children not just those in daycare.
They request that the upcoming budget not be passed in its present form and say that to pass it would be a violation of Charter rights of equal benefit under the law.
They urge contact with opposition leaders in the House of Commons at Ottawa, Ontario K1A OA6 to voice concerns about the budget.
the Hon Stephen Harper, leader, Conservative Alliance
(Parti Conservateur)
613-996-6740 phone 613-947-0310 fax
[email protected]
the Hon Jack Layton, New Democratic Party (Nouveaux Democrats)
613-995-7224 phone 613-996-9884 fax
[email protected]
the Hon. Gilles Duceppe, leader Bloc Quebecois
613-992-6779 phone 613-954-2121 fax
[email protected]

Kids First Parent Association of Canada was formed in 1987 as a communications network trying to raise the social status of unpaid caregiving. In 1993 it participated in an Income Tax court challenge about unpaid care. (Boland)

Smith is the Calgary homemaker who in 1997 raised a complaint at the United Nations that Canadas tax laws discriminate against some child-rearing styles. She says no progress has been made over the ensuing 8 years and what is worse, at the UN conference for unpaid labour coming up in March 2005, Canada will have to admit it has done little to keep its 1995 promise to value caregiving work in the home. Smith, a mother of four and school teacher, edits an international newsletter on caregiving.
Yvonne Coupal has lived in Quebec for most of her life. She is a full-time parent and an independent entrepreneur who specializes in facilitating communications between the French and English corporate communities across Canada and throughout North America.
In 2003 she formed a bilingual lobby group in order to put forward a brief to the Quebec government during their Parliamentary hearing to discuss changes to the existing daycare program. The brief, entitled Government Implementation of a Taxable Childcare Subsidy that is Fiscally Equitable for All Children is available upon request. Its raison detre was to ensure that all children and their families had a voice at the table, with regards to equal government consideration and funding for family assistance programs, not just those using daycare.

The lobby group was purposely called Citizens in Favour of Equal Government Childcare Subsidies for all Children or Les Citoyen(ne)s en Faveur de lEquite Fiscale des Subventions pour Soins de Garde pour tous les Enfants, as it was quite evident that the pro-daycare wave was going to hit at the national level eventually.
Social Development Minister Ken Dryden is meeting Feb 11 2005 to finally put together a national daycare program, promised in the upcoming budget. He has announced the debate is over. A chief policy advisor to the PM has spoken with Smith Feb 4,2005 confirming the bad news - those who are seeking tax breaks for children not in daycare will see no benefits. The decision has been made.
For 35 years women have asked government to equally fund all children. For many it is a human rights issue about equal benefit under the law.(section 15 (1))

As it stands the current proposal will benefit and fund only children in daycare. There is some question whether it will even fund all of them since some daycare activists want it to only fund one specific style of daycare The following list is made up of the children of Canada who will be ignored and possibly prejudiced by the March 2005 budget:

1. -children in alternate childcare settings such as at a sitters or a family-run daycare
2. -children in the care of a relative, such as a grandmother
3. -children in skip-parent families who are being raised by a grandparent because the parents are out of the picture
4. -children in homes where one parent has a home-based office or telecommutes, does contract work, is self-employed from home and even children whose parent operates a family-run daycare facility
5. -children whose parents tag-team so that they can offshift each other in order to be there and take care of their children
6. -children whose parents have arranged paid work schedules so one of them is always home when the child is home (for instance women who have part-time day jobs during school hours only)
7. -children who are raised in a nontraditional setting where dad is the principal caregiver and mom the principal income earner
8. -children who are raised in a traditional setting where mom is the principal caregiver and dad is the principal income earner
9. -children who are experiencing an education adventure of a lifetime traveling with their parents while being homeschooled, and all other children who are being homeschooled
10. -children who are being provided with educational stimulation every week in
preschool classes, such as art, library story time, gym, dance, art, music, yoga for
babies, swimming and who are taken to and from such classes by a parent who
personally has little or no income, to ensure the child gets such education.
11. children who have parents who work outside of the regular 9-to-5 workweek,
including evening, out-of-town, weekend or seasonal jobs.

In fact the overwhelming majority of children are BEING NOT ONLY IGNORED BUT ALSO PREJUDICED AGAINST by this budget as it will fund only some daycare children. Secondly, for those children who use several of the above care arrangements, there is no flexibility for money to flow with them as their parents make choices to adapt to their changing needs. Thirdly, what is even more offensive, general tax dollars are forced from all above mentioned parenting style parents to fund the needs of a small daycare minority who prefer a full-time institutional setting.

This budget therefore is UNFAIR AND DISCRIMINATORY against the majority of our nations children and must be amended. If Paul Martins Liberal government refuses to equally benefit all child-rearing styles, this budget should be defeated.

The movement to value alternate childcare options is a longstanding one that this government has gone to some pains to ignore and exclude. We who argue for equal rights for all children are not ANTI_daycare. Most of us endorse the rights of daycare users. We do however insist on equal treatment for all children whose families choose other healthy and valid caregiving alternatives.

We have been a constant and patient voice trying to convince this government to be more inclusive. We have gone through channels. We have not been confrontational, angry or hysterical. We have conducted ourselves with dignity and sought legal avenues. A 1990s Income Tax Court case ruled there is a definite discrimination here. A 1997 UN working group concluded there were legal systems discriminating resulting in a high incidence of women and children in poverty.

Thousands of voices over the years have approached the government. We have tried petitions, rallies, letters, and meetings with MPs. We have formed organizations and attended what conferences we were permitted to attend. The Supreme Court Act permits ordinary citizens, on matters of national importance, to request a Supreme Court reference to ensure laws are consistent with equality rights. Beverley Smith has been denied such a reference by 3 successive attorneys general.

Why does it matter?
Two reasons. First, daycare is not beneficial for all children. Second, because equal is equal.

The UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child says a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances be separated from the mother: parents have the legally guaranteed ethical right and obligation to decide on the care and education their children receive. Canada ignores this principle and is actively proposing policy that works against it.

As a teacher Smith has seen effects of children launched too soon into the vat of peers, needy for love and attention that strangers cant give because of the large groups and changing staff. In our lobbying, we unpaid caregivers have chosen to not use statistics about daycare flaws, abuse, neglect, high staff turnover or failure to bond. We did not want to add to the guilt parents feel as daycare users or to their worry. We simply wanted to give families more options.

We have consistently argued the equal rights view.

We tax parenting styles unequally. Kurt Oelschlagel, chartered accountant of BDO Dunwoody notes a household income of $61,000 a family earning $50,000 and $11,000 pays up to 46\% more tax than does a household earning $30,000 and $30,000. Despite a vote in the House of Commons in 1999 in which all opposition parties voted against the government, the Liberals kept the penalty.
In the past 30 years, things have gotten worse. Family allowance and the child dependent deduction were removed in the 1990s. The spousal deduction has been cut from 1/3 of an average wage to under 1/7. The child tax benefit does not even reach children on welfare, or much of the middle class.
Yet daycare breaks have skyrocketed. The deduction has gone from $2,000 to $7,000 and extends now to age 16. It turns out now that for the exact same expense, one family can deduct it and another cannot. We have effectively a discrimination based on lifestyle. Dual income households with an average income of $80,000 can deduct the costs of music camp, school lunch or art class that the single income family, average income $55,000, uses but cant deduct.
We in the general public are beginning to suspect a Liberal government agenda that mistrusts mom-care, and grandma care, claiming it is unregulated. The pro-daycare advocacy mantra is that high quality regulated child care is better than informal situations in which children are likely to spend their days in environments that are supposedly neither stimulating nor safe.
How many of the current decision-makers and policy gurus involved in the upcoming budget proposals have actually gone through daycare programs as children? Not too many, we suspect.
It is the coming generations who will have a much more realistic picture of daycare and whether it was a rich and rewarding experience or just another institution that provincial governments subsidized to make sure as many people as possible could go out to paid work to artificially prop up our economy. We may very well see a backlash similar to the one in the 1960s when young people demonstrated and fought to achieve true equality for all including women and people of color. When many of todays children are tomorrows parents, facing the heart-wrenching decision of how to raise their children, they are likely to turn their backs on our strictly daycare-driven society and seek to change it to be more inclusive for all children and to fight for family friendly government policies. Time will tell.
The goal of Mr. Martins Liberal party now seems to be to force women out of the home to maximize the GDP and tax revenues. The Canadian Labour Congress argued Sept 30 2004 that quality child care helps an economy stay productive and guarantees taxes. Dr. Michael Krashinsky says if all child care costs are subsidized full-time employment by women would increase from 29\% to 52\% The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care wants to include all children in its system. The state is deliberately tilting the balance to deny free choice on how to raise our children.
Yet people dont like to be pushed. The You Bet I Care 2000 study admitted there is not a crisis. In fact there are actually vacancies at 53.7 \% of daycares across Canada. Daycare use is only about 21\% .
Martha Friendly, coordinator CRRU, expects the state expense for daycare set now at $5 billion, will double over the next 10-15 years. Ms Friendly says the state should keep its promise to supply a government daycare network. But Canada also promised to value nondaycare alternatives. It vowed to value unpaid labour at Beijing in 1995. In 1960 the Carter Commission recommended households be taxed equally regardless of earning style. The 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended funding all children not just daycare children because all child-rearing is work.
The public is voting with their feet. 32.5\% of women aged 25-44 choose only part time paid work to be home with the kids. There are 80,000 children home-schooled in Canada. The Canadian Telework Association says 1.5 million Canadians perform their paid work from home.
And polls confirm this desire. The Strategic Counsel says 71\% of Canadians feel the current tax system makes it hard to afford to have a parent at home with the child. In a 2002 Macleans survey 63\% of fathers and 73\% of mothers said if they could afford it they would prefer to have a parent at home with a young child.
Yet the state continues to erode benefits to all except daycare users. To fund its daycare program in 1998 (an election year) the Quebec government of the day all but abolished its baby bonus program, as it slashed the benefits to families to fund the new daycare promise. Family allowance payments plummeted. The result angered so many people that parents organized. In 2003 Yvonne Coupal, head of the Quebec-based lobby
Group Citizens in Favour of Equal Government Childcare Subsidies for all Children and its French counterpart, Citoyen(ne)s en Faveur de LEquite Fiscale des Subventions pour Soins de Garde Pour Tous les Enfants, began the process of launching a class action suit against the Quebec government, on the grounds that by directly paying the daycare centers and by-passing families the government was discriminating against over 50\% of Quebecs children who were not using the government-run daycare network.
Quebecs Minister for the Family, Claude Bechard, soon realized the inequality and bias of Quebecs daycare system and has since begun the process of formulating a truly comprehensive and universal family policy which should benefit all of Quebecs children.
As past president of Kids First Parent Association of Canada. Smith has talked with Carol Lees, the brave Saskatchewan homemaker who brought this government to task in 1991 for not counting unpaid work in the home as useful work. We have a long history of being ignored and discriminated against.

We who raise or have raised children are not deemed stakeholders in discussions on child care, and were excluded from closed door meetings for the National Action Plan for children and last falls prebudget consultations. The agenda has become blatant - under Access to Information Smith uncovered a memo between two civil servants at the Human Rights Commission which reads If you like we can discuss trying to kill this more completely

We are concerned about the nations children.
And we are concerned about equality rights.
A Quebec court has ruled that maternity benefits funding, tied only to how much the woman earned, is not an appropriate use of EI funds. EI was not meant to fund social programs. A BC Human Rights Tribunal found that despite current government policy to fund care of the handicapped by anyone but a family member, it is unfair to exclude a family member.

The time has come for unpaid caregivers to be heard and recognized financially because we too do important work for the nation. We contribute to Canadas current and future economy. The future nation builders are our children. Daycare providers are not there to instill values and morals that is the familys responsibility. Politicians and policy makers must realize that the family is best suited to make decisions concerning the care of todays children, soon to be tomorrows adults.

Being told by the PMO that we dont matter is not acceptable.
We strongly urge members of Parliament to represent and legislate fairly for all your constituents, not just the small vocal government-subsidized pro-daycare groups, by voting for equal benefit under the law. It is, after all, a Charter right.
May all discussions and decisions taken by governments in the name of our children be in the best interests of children.
Yvonne Coupal
Telephone (450)966-6124 Fax (450) 966-1420
e-mail/courriel [email protected]
[email protected]

Helen Chris
Kids First Parent Association of Canada
e-mail/courriel: [email protected]
[email protected]

Beverley Smith
Telephone 403-283-2400 Fax (403)283-2400
e-mail/courriel [email protected]

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