CONSENSUS REACHED ON RURAL, REMOTE AND NORTHERN CHILD CARE

OTTAWA ? Emerging from a community national strategy session on child care for rural, remote and northern communities, participants were buoyed by the spirit of consensus and co-operation that marked the two-day event.

?We were looking for a cohesive national voice on this issue and we found it,? spokesperson Carol Gott said.

The session, coordinated jointly by Rural Voices for Early Childhood Education and Care and the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, was organized in response to the federal government?s stated plans for a national child care system.

Approximately 50 participants met in the nation?s capital February 7-8 to collaborate on the details for inclusion in a discussion paper to be released nationally. Participants included a wide range of stakeholders in the rural child care issue from parents and board members, to service providers, organizations, unions and government representatives. All provinces and territories were represented.

Key to all discussion was an agreement that all children in rural, remote and northern communities in Canada should have access to a quality early learning and child care system.

The completed discussion paper highlights four building blocks for the creation of such a system in rural Canada ? a sound public policy framework, a professional workforce, comprehensive service delivery and community involvement.

Citizen engagement at the community level was seen as an essential component, as was the kind of ?common sense flexibility?? that reflected the practicalities of rural lifestyles and environments.

The discussion paper will be made available across the country. Following distribution, four teleseminars, including one in the French language, will be conducted for education and consultation purposes. A final report is expected March 31.