Childcare Advocacy and Canadian Policy Processes: History and Practice From World War Two to the Present

This research project, conducted from April 1999 to March 2001, was sponsored by the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, and funded by Child Care Visions, Human Resources Development Canada. The Principal Investigator was Dr. Susan Prentice (Department of Sociology, University of Manitoba), who worked with the Project Advisory Team of Rebecca Kelley Scherer, Wendy Atkin, Maryann Bird, and CCAAC Executive Director Cynthia Magloughlin.

The research project explored the complex relationship between child care advocacy and the processes of policy development and change in English Canada, from 1945 to the late 1990s. The project was designed as participatory research, drawing heavily on the volunteer efforts of CCAAC Board members and child care advocacy organizations across the country.

The Anthology


Edited by Susan Prentice, 2001.
Fernwood, Halifax.
224 pp, paper
ISBN: 1 55266 062 1

Order from your local independent bookstore or the publisher, Fernwood Books.

Description from the book cover

Most parents of young children need child care services to help them work or study. Yet the licensed child care system has space for less than 1 in 10 children and is generally unaffordable for most parents. Quality, accessibility and affordability vary wildly within and between provinces and territories. While Quebec has a $5-a-day child care system, the rest of the coun- try leaves child care to the family and the market. When and why do governments implement progressive child care policies? The contributors in Changing Child Care address this and other questions, and examine the different child care systems Canadians have adopted. The history of the five decades of mobilization and policy making in Canada is explored throughout this book. Unlike those who would claim that child care is primarily a private family matter, the authors argue that child care is better understood as a public responsibility and part of the public good.

Introduction from the anthology

Changing child care: Five decades of child care advocacy and policy in Canada
by Susan Prentice

A “formidable force,” Ottawa Citizen editorialists deem the contemporary Canadian child care lobby. They claim the movement’s power and undue political influence rests in the convergence of staff, parents, teachers, researchers and an array of other players. The lobby, warns the newspaper, is a “steamroller” that governments must mightily resist. Other observers might query the purported power of advocates, given Canada’s piecemeal and patchwork child care system. In fact, it might more reasonably be concluded that the very existence of a child care movement is a direct result of political neglect-certainly advocates’ efforts would be unneeded had governments implemented progressive policy and comprehensive services. Still, the Ottawa Citizen rightly observes that the child care lobby is a player with which politicians must reckon.

There has been a child care movement in Canada for over half a century-yet surprisingly little has been written about how and by whom child care advocacy has been organized, what the movement has done and tried to do, or what effects it has had on social policy or social change. In this book, we set out to begin to remedy some of these gaps. This project is by, for and about the role of advocacy in the making of a place for child care in the Canadian welfare state. Over the last half century, child care policy and services have changed-quite dramatically-and the child care movement has played a role in that complex, interactive process. Individually, these chapters name some of the particulars of this process; in concert, these case studies accomplish something more.

1940s1940’s women demonstrate. “Fatter babies not fatter profits”.

As a collection, this book makes two significant contributions. First, it explores the history of child care advocacy and policy in Canada from World War II to the present. All too often, these stories have been hidden from history. There are many reasons why child care has been neglected in historical and scholarly studies. One reason is that child care advocacy (in Canada, as elsewhere) has largely been a project of women-and the chapters in this anthology variously propose why this is so. In general, much of women’s history has been ignored or has failed to be included in history books. History is usually written from the perspective of the mainstream, and the advocacy groups whose stories are told in this book are still campaigning from the margins to have child care declared an entitlement of the Canadian welfare state. Additionally, this is an anthology about a social movement, and the history of social movements in Canada is still being written. As such, this book directly contributes to the active project of history-making.

For the full introduction, click here.

Oral Interviews

As part of the large, multi-phase research project, 52 long-time child care advocates were interviewed. Their interviews were transcribed and deposited with CCAAC and the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives at the University of Ottawa, where they are a resource for researchers.

We have selected excerpts from five interviews. From these voices, a wide range of issues and perspectives emerges. What also comes through is the importance of citizen involvement and social movement organizing.

  • Alice Taylor is an early childhood educator and centre director, living and working in Prince Edward Island, where she is active in professional ECE issues.
  • Dixie Lee Van Raalte is a child care consultant, with long experience working with First Nations communities.
  • Katie Cooke lives in Victoria, where she retired after a long career in civil service. She is best known for her work as Chair of the federal Task Force on Child Care.
  • Martha Friendly is Coordinator of the Child Care Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto, and a leading Canadian child care policy researcher.
  • Howard Clifford is a retired federal civil servant who worked on child care. His best known advocacy initiative was a cross-Canada bicycle trip to promote public awareness of child care.

Click here to see the excerpts presented as text transcribed from the interviews, and as MP3 format audio files.

Multi-disciplinary Bibliography

A multi-disciplinary bibliography on child care advocacy. You can download this bibliography [PDF, 100pp, 227KB].

Archival Collection

Archival Listing: Sources for Historical Research on Post-World War 11 Child Care Advocacy in English Canada (PDF, 26pp, 61KB)

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