Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework outlines details of Indigenous care system

The recently-announced Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework details goals and strategies for each of Canada’s three main Indigenous groups as it seeks to lay the groundwork for a new system of early learning and child care created by and for Indigenous peoples.

The framework, announced Monday, was developed in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Knatami and the Métis National Council. Over 100 engagement activities were conducted across the country reaching over 3,000 people through town halls, regional and national meeting and online surveys.

The federal government is dedicating $1.7 billion over 10 years to the framework, starting in 2018-19.

The subsequent framework sets out a shared vision, principles and the path forward for Indigenous early learning and child care, government documents say.

The framework reflects “unique cultures, aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Metis children across Canada,” the government wrote.

It sets out a vision for a comprehensive and coordinated system led by Indigenous peoples with accessible, flexible and inclusive spaces for all Indigenous children, families and communities, regardless of where they live. It’s consistent with Truth an Reconciliation Commission recommendations, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other documents.

For First Nations, the document envisions a system that “lays the foundation for the health and well-being of First Nations children” while providing parental choice and supporting cultural continuity. It would see a First Nations-led system of programs and services designed and governed by First Nations, including authority and decision making at all levels of policy development.

The First Nations section of the framework also lays out the vision of a system rooted in First nations language, knowledge and culture, guided by Indigenous practices in childhood development and strengthened by partnerships with government, service delivery organizations and community members.

The Métis section of the framework details a system where Métis children and families are provided with culturally-relevant self-empowering programming.

It sets out a system rooted in culture and delivered by the Métis nation through “existing well-developed governing bodies” that have program delivery infrastructure. It also supports providers from inside or outside the nation being trained and educated in early childhood education and the cultural ways of the nation, hiring Metis individuals wherever possible.

The framework also outlines the priorities and vision for the Inuit-led child care and early learning system.

Framework principles:

The framework sets out the following nine principles to guide delivery and development of an Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care system.

  • Indigenous knowledges, languages and cultures
    Realizing the crucial importance of Indigenous ELCC that is rooted in distinct Indigenous cultures, languages and knowledges, as the foundation from which children form their individual and collective identity, and as an essential component of wellbeing.
  • First Nations, Inuit and Métis determination
    Acknowledging that First Nations, Inuit and the Métis are distinct peoples with rights to self-determination including the right to control the design, delivery and administration of an Indigenous ELCC system that reflects their unique needs, priorities and aspirations.
  • Quality programs and services
    Led by Indigenous peoples, creating culturally-appropriate and distinct ELCC programs and services that are grounded in Indigenous cultures and delivered through a holistic approach that supports the wellness of children and families in safe, nurturing and well-resourced programs and environments. Providing culturally-competent, well-educated, trained and well-compensated early childhood educators in healthy, equitable and supportive work environments.
  • Child and family-centred
    Understanding the child in the context of family and prioritizing the direct involvement of families in the delivery of a continuum of programs, services and supports, from prenatal to school age and beyond. Supporting families to heal from past and present trauma.
  • Inclusive
    Taking into account and building upon the diversity of Indigenous children and families, creating ELCC programs that include a range of supports to respond to children’s, families’ and communities’ diverse abilities (including physical, psychological and developmental abilities), geographic locations and socio-economic circumstances.
  • Flexible and adaptable
    Enabling and supporting flexible ELCC programs and services that are responsive to the unique needs of a child, family or community.
  • Accessible
    Supporting access to affordable ELCC programs and services for all Indigenous children and families who require them.
  • Transparent and accountable
    Designing, delivering and funding ELCC in ways that are accountable to children, families, communities and partners; sharing data in in transparent and ethically appropriate ways, with reciprocal and mutual accountability between those who are collaborating to design, deliver and fund services.
  • Respect, collaboration and partnerships
    With Indigenous peoples leading the way, strengthening and fostering new and emerging partnerships and collaborations at multiple levels, across sectors, with numerous players in program design and delivery to achieve shared goals. Recognizing that no one program can meet all the needs of children and their families, fostering a network of supports based on community needs and creating opportunities to support Indigenous families and communities to care for their children in more comprehensive, holistic, effective and efficient ways.