Investing in our children is investing in the future of our country - in the innovation, creative thinking, and human potential that Canada will need to thrive. There is no better way to do this than through high-quality Early Childhood Education (ECE).
We are a working group of eight charitable foundations that care about children. Our foundations provide support to a wide range of agencies and programs that help children and families across the country.
We have come together to urge Canada’s politicians to recognize that ECE is a must-have element in building a more prosperous country and to invest in quality early childhood education for all children across Canada.
Why are we convinced that supporting ECE is one of the smartest investments Canada can make? Because the case has been proven. Research results on the value of quality early childhood education are strong, clear and significant.
In March 2015, more than 150 scholars from universities across Canada and from disciplines ranging through psychology, education, medicine, economics and neuroscience jointly and unequivocally stated that investing in early childhood education is beneficial to children, to society and to the economy.
High-quality early childhood programs improve language, literacy and math skills, and foster school success. And they support the labour participation of parents, particularly of women.
All children benefit from ECE, and there is solid evidence of even larger positive effects for immigrant families and children living in socio-economically disadvantaged families.
At a time when inequality is on the minds of so many Canadians, does it not make sense to invest in universal ECE to help create a more equitable society? After all, there is evidence that more equal societies perform better on all counts, economically and socially.
As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Aboriginal leaders remind us yet again of the educational and opportunity gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people, does it not make sense to invest in early childhood programs that will give every Aboriginal child the best chance to succeed?
So far, as a country, we have failed to act on this evidence. Among developed nations, Canada is near the bottom of the international ladder in terms of investment in ECE. Surely Canada should be among the best in the world!
On the positive side, in recent years, there has been progress regarding early childhood education in every province and territory. While some are moving faster than others, we have seen increased access, better governance, improved quality and greater funding.
The challenge now is to move to a strong partnership with the federal government and to go Canada-wide.
This is an election year, which gives federal parties a great opportunity to take a stand, to commit to supporting high-quality ECE for children wherever they live in this country.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies ECE as a right of all children. But children have no means to exercise that right. They cannot vote; they have no professional lobbyists.
We are raising our voices on their behalf in the hope that many more Canadians will do the same. ECE is a powerful tool to enable children and Canada to succeed. We want it to be prominent on the public agenda.
The evidence is overwhelming and action is overdue. There are moments in time when a breakthrough becomes possible. This is one of those moments.
This statement has been signed by the following Foundations:
The Muttart Foundation
The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation
Jimmy Pratt Foundation
Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation
The Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation
The Lawson Foundation
Lyle S. Hallman Foundation