First li­censed on-re­serve day­care opens

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - EMMA GRANEY egraney@postmedia.com

Last July, Kapawe’no First Na­tion con­tacted the prov­ince with a unique pro­posal.

The com­mu­nity in Grouard in north­ern Al­berta had a day­care since 2014, but Chief Frank Hal­crow wanted it to be­come provin­cially li­censed.

Within a week, the gov­ern­ment was work­ing with the First Na­tion to make that hap­pen.

Li­cens­ing a day­care is a lengthy process — spe­cific con­di­tions need to be met, pa­per­work must be com­pleted and of­ten im­prove­ments are re­quired.

It took around one year, but Kapawe’no fi­nally se­cured its ticket this sum­mer.

On Fri­day, it cel­e­brated its open­ing day — and its po­si­tion as the first li­censed day­care on a re­serve in Al­berta.

The NDP is big on af­ford­able child care. It was part of the party’s 2015 elec­tion plat­form, and the gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished a lim­ited pro­gram of $25-per-day child care cen­tres.

Chil­dren’s Ser­vices Min­is­ter Danielle Larivee was at the event Fri­day.

As the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake it is, af­ter all, her rid­ing, not to men­tion well within her port­fo­lio.

There have been bar­ri­ers for years as to how those on First Na­tions can ac­cess ser­vices that the rest of us just take for granted.

Speak­ing with the Jour­nal ahead of the cel­e­bra­tion, she said giv­ing the day­care the of­fi­cial nod means par­ents will be able to ac­cess the same sub­si­dies avail­able to non-re­serve Al­ber­tans.

The li­cence also means Kapawe’no will be el­i­gi­ble for top-up pay­ments for the four day­care work­ers at the cen­tre, and it will give par­ents piece of mind that care is be­ing eval­u­ated on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

“(Chief Hal­crow) was in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate about mak­ing sure the peo­ple in his com­mu­nity had ac­cess to li­censed day­care,” Larivee said.

“It had never oc­curred to me that had never hap­pened be­fore, but there have been bar­ri­ers for years as to how those on First Na­tions can ac­cess ser­vices that the rest of us just take for granted, so ob­vi­ously this is an­other one of those.”

Once Kapawe’no’s story gets out, Larivee fully ex­pects more First Na­tions to get in con­tact about li­cens­ing their own day­cares.

Kapawe’no First Na­tion Day­care Cen­tre di­rec­tor Carol Han­lon said she is “ec­static” about the li­cence and what it means for the com­mu­nity.

The day­care pro­gram is also close to North­ern Lakes Col­lege, so stu­dents can now ap­ply for pro­vin­cial child­care sub­si­dies to help with child-care costs.

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