March 1, 2005
The Honourable Ken Dryden, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Social Development
Tower B, 20th Floor
Dear Mr. Dryden:
The Catholic Organization for Life and the Family would like to applaud the positive aspects of the help you have been planning on behalf of Canadian families. In particular, we appreciate your ministry's current development of a national system of early learning and child care, which will meet the needs and expectations of many parents.
Given the Catholic Church's preferential option for the poor, your initiative provides an excellent opportunity to help our poorest families. We know that many Aboriginal and rural families, among others, lack early education and daycare opportunities for young children. Your project will offer an equal chance for early learning and success to all Canadian children, including those who are born into an underprivileged situation.
While we support the creation of this innovative program, the Catholic Organization for Life and the Family hopes that you will also provide real freedom of choice among childcare options for all Canadian parents. As mentioned in the Throne Speech of October 5, 2004, "parents must have real choices".
In this speech, the Government also pointed out that "there is more that must be done to help families help their children". This important affirmation corresponds to our conviction that parents are the first people responsible for their children's education and that they must be able to count on the State's support in this endeavour. For this reason, we would ask the government to put in place a series of fiscal and social measures in order to help those parents who wish to fulfill this mission themselves.
One way to assist mothers or fathers who wish to care for their own children at home is to offer them financial support. If it is true that seven out of ten mothers with children under the age of six work outside the home, they certainly do not all do so with joy. Many feel forced to do paid work because of financial pressures and would choose, if it were a viable option, to devote themselves entirely to their parental responsibility, at least during the early years. A recent survey carried out in Quebec by CROP-La Presse confirms this view: if they had the financial means, 70% of mothers who work outside the home would prefer to stay at home to raise their children. Certain couples would opt for a full-time fatherly presence.
Furthermore, we believe that the serious demographic challenge that Canada currently faces requires decisive government action on behalf of couples and families. With a fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman, our country will soon be confronted with major socio-economic problems.
The time has come to encourage young adults to become parents by promoting the task of raising children and the profession of parenting. As a society, we must recognize the great personal and social value of the work of a parent who chooses to stay at home and raise children. We must also offer women, who most often take on this responsibility, the possibility to develop professionally without sacrificing their roles as mothers. This outcome will require a radical transformation of many social and corporate attitudes, but we believe such a transformation would benefit society in general and individual families in particular and is therefore well worth the effort.
Equipping children for the future certainly means being devoted to their social and intellectual development - a major challenge to which your national system of early learning can contribute. But it also means responding to children's emotional needs - a primordial parental responsibility on which we do not place enough importance, especially during the first three years of a child's life, when the parent-child bond is formed.
The Catholic Organization for Life and the Family therefore urges you to define policies that would allow parents to opt for the formula that they prefer: a) a daycare plan that allows both parents to work outside the home, or b) financial support that allows one parent to work at home caring for their children. In terms of social justice, we believe that a democratic government must respect parents' freedom of choice in childcare options, trust their choices, and make each choice financially possible.
†Most Reverend Pierre Morissette
Bishop of Baie-Comeau
Chairperson of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family