Indigenous
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Indigenous families face additional hurdles to child-care access

Systemic barriers to safe and culturally representative child-care programs in Victoria

Indigenous
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Indigenous families face additional hurdles to child-care access

Systemic barriers to safe and culturally representative child-care programs in Victoria

Mural by Coast Salish artist Brianna Bear at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. Photo: Sidney Coles / LJI
Mural by Coast Salish artist Brianna Bear at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. Photo: Sidney Coles / LJI
Indigenous
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Indigenous families face additional hurdles to child-care access

Systemic barriers to safe and culturally representative child-care programs in Victoria

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Indigenous families face additional hurdles to child-care access
Mural by Coast Salish artist Brianna Bear at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. Photo: Sidney Coles / LJI

The challenge of accessing affordable child care is very real for all families in the CRD. Capital Daily has reported on the child-care crisis in the region and the major challenges to solving this complex puzzle.

For Indigenous families, the list of challenges is even longer and more complex. It’s also punctuated by the realities of raising children in a colonial system not designed for them, their children, or the Indigenous Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) who work with them. 

Those realities include a lack of cultural representation in programs and child-care spaces, glaring gaps in education curricula for Indigenous ECEs in post-secondary institutions, and current limitations to the ways non-specifically Indigenous child-care programs acknowledge, honour, and integrate the lived experience of Indigenous children and their families. Or don’t.

The XaXe SŦELIṮḴEL child-care centre, housed at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre is at capacity and is no longer accepting applications. Its staff, though, continues to extend its commitment to access to others. 

The Victoria Native Friendship Centre is not on reserve so its intake is place-based. Sarah Russ, a team lead, told Capital Daily that while they are planning to move to uniquely Indigenous-child enrollment in the future, “it’s been important for XaXe SŦELIṮḴEL to honour our relationships with non-Indigenous families in the neighbourhood and to keep enrollment open to non-Indigenous children.” At the moment, the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous kids is roughly 1:2, but that will change gradually, as non-Indigenous children graduate from the program. 

There are two issues

For Russ, the root of the child-care dilemma bifurcates into two key issues: the type of care being offered to Indigenous families and the kind of training Indigenous and non-Indigenous ECEs receive.  

Russ graduated from Camosun College with a diploma in ECE and while she praised her experience as a student and instructor  there, she also acknowledged to Capital Daily that “the curriculum remains very colonial. It has large gaps in Indigenous knowledge,” she said. 

“So, for teachers that are coming into the field, framing their practice around colonial knowledge that they're learning institutions and then coming into practice, there is a gap in their interacting with Indigenous families and trying to support Indigenous children.” 

ECEs must complete an early childhood education program at a recognized university or college. Early childhood educators and assistants (ECEAs) must then be certified through the Ministry of Children and Family Development to work in most licensed child-care programs in Victoria. Camosun College is the only post-secondary institution on Vancouver Island with an ECE diploma program.  

Teachers need to add their culture to the class

Russ said she’d like to see Indigenous educators allowed to bring more of their cultural practices to their educational experiences and more Indigenous resources made available to learners who seek them. 

“My education and what I am bringing forward,” she said, “is not something I can learn through a colonial institution, it's something I was raised in and I want to explore that alongside my students as an educator.” 

Lastly, Russ spoke about the challenge Indigenous parents have, in her words, “finding spaces they can connect with and where they and their children can feel safe.” 

Finding safety and connection means, she explained, having to ask questions like “Does the child-care centre honour and acknowledge the land that it’s on, and how? Do they have Indigenous authors on their shelves? Do they have books by Robert Munsch and creators like Richard Van Camp and Monique Gray Smith? Do they have Rafi and Indigenous artists playing in the background? Do they have posters, toys, and learning materials that reflect and represent Indigenous realities and ways of being?” 

At XaXe SŦELIṮḴEL Indigenous parents don’t have to ask these questions. Those particular barriers do not exist there. 

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