CCCABC receives BCGEU Spirt of Leadership Award


George Heyman and Shelagh Day presented the award to the Coalition, and Susan Harney accepted the award on behalf of the Coalition.

Tribute by Shelagh Day

Let me start by thanking the BCGEU for inviting me to present this award. Alliances with the union are extremely important to community organizations. By giving this award you show that these alliances really matter to you too. Thank you for this.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this afternoon to thank the Coalition of Child Care Advocates for their fantastic work.

Let us all acknowledge how hard it is these days to be an advocate for women and children and for struggling families. It has been a difficult decade, and in British Columbia, the last four years have been particularly tough ones. I cannot remember a government as consciously cruel to the most vulnerable people among us as this one has been. Nor can I remember a government that has displayed its disregard for women so openly – for women workers, for women on welfare, for women’s community organizations. Hopefully with an opposition 17 times larger in the legislature, the next four years will be brighter ones.

But during this decade, we have had to fight to hold on to our social programs – the building blocks of an egalitarian society. And to fight against having more people on the streets, more people without enough food, more kids without safe child care, more mothers scared and anxious, more families struggling, all while our economy booms.

Facing into the neoliberal tsunami, are we not lucky then, are we not deeply grateful that there are advocates like the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC who are steady, dogged, wise, clever, strategic, knowledgeable, and full of heart, who have worked tirelessly through all the strain and difficulties of this period on the central issue of getting a non-profit publicly funded child care system that is high quality, affordable, and accessible for all of us, in BC and nationally. We are lucky and we are grateful.

35 years ago the Royal Commission on the Status of Women called for a national child care program, with an act, national standards, and federal-provincial cost-sharing. If we are coming close now, in 2005, to having that national child care program, it is due to the determined, mostly unpaid work of women in the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and its affiliates across the country.

Child care is a pivotal social program for women, for children, and for men.

For women, we know why. Because high qualify affordable child care shifts some care-giving work from women’s shoulders and that permits us more freedom in our lives, more opportunity to work for pay, to go to school, to participate in public life. Thirty-five years ago the Royal Commission said: “For the government to fail to proceed with a national child-care program… would be to deny the claim that Canadian women have made for concrete assistance with bearing the burden of care-giving responsibility that they have been compelled to carry.” The federal government and provincial governments have failed women for years.

Child care is a pivotal program for children because we know how important their early years are and that care that provides them with stimulation, learning, and interaction with others is essential to their physical and mental development.

And it is a pivotal program for families because mothers and fathers need to be able to work or study knowing that their children are safe and well-looked after. For the working women and men of the BCGEU with young children, reliable high quality child care is essential to a decent life.

Child care is key to a fair society, that offers equality to women, and an intelligent and loving environment for children.

What an important contribution it is then – to all of us – that the Coalition of Child Care Advocates makes by working devotedly to get strong public support for, and government investment in, good child care.

We know how many long hours you have worked, how many conference calls you have endured, how carefully you have pored over government documents to figure out what the newest announcements really mean, how brilliant you have been at tracking the dollars, how quickly you have knocked out new fact sheets and budget submissions, how persistently you have stayed on top of all of the information, all of the government shifts, dodges, feints, offers, and withdrawals. And we have relied on you for your work, your advice, and your leadership.

I owe personal thanks to the Coalition’s members for teaching me about how child care works and does not work in BC, about operating grants and subsidies, about monies put in and monies taken out, about where the federal money vanished to, about what happened to child care for women on welfare. In answer to my questions, and my needs for information, I have been taught – with generosity and spirit and sophistication. And I know that other allies have been treated the same.

Isn’t it great to find a really good partner in your work? Isn’t it a joy to have someone to work with who works really hard, is completely reliable, knows what they are doing, and really cares? And that’s the Coalition of Child Care Advocates. A superb advocate and a superb partner for other advocates and for this union and its members.

To misquote the Barenaked Ladies: If I had a million dollars, I would not buy you a fur coat because that would be cruel. But if I had a million dollars, I would give it all to you to support your excellent work. I don’t have a million dollars and BCGEU doesn’t have a million dollars either. So we hope that you will accept a million thanks and this Spirit of Leadership Award – for working on child care which is so important to all of us, for doing it brilliantly and with passion, and for never, never, never giving up.

With your help, we will get the national high quality child care program that we all need and deserve. Thank you.