British Columbia

Vancouver parents rally to save Downtown Eastside daycare

Concerned parents say the 49-space daycare, which is shutting down, had been instrumental in supporting vulnerable children and families in Strathcona and surrounding areas.

'Losing these spaces is really a crisis for parents but also for our neighbourhood as a whole'

Melodie Mallinder said her son went to the daycare for five years and that it was an incredibly formative experience for him. (Ken Leedham/CBC)

Vancouver parents are rallying in protest over the closure of a daycare in the city's Downtown Eastside.

The concerned parents say the 49-space daycare had been instrumental in supporting vulnerable children and families in Strathcona and surrounding areas.

The Phil Bouvier Family Daycare was inclusive to all peoples but had a focus on supporting Indigenous families and was operated by the Vancouver Native Health Society (VNHS).

"This neighbourhood has the highest vulnerability rate of children anywhere in the province," said Kate Hodgson, co-ordinator of the Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre.

"Losing these spaces is really a crisis for parents but also for our neighbourhood as a whole," she said. "We're losing the last infant, toddler spaces in our community and we don't know where those children will go."

Hodgson spent Friday meeting with parents upset by the closure.

$42K child-care grant

The VNHS said in June that the daycare had to close due to financial hardship. That prompted the City of Vancouver to offer a $42,000 child-care grant to the daycare in July.

But in a statement Friday, the city said the VNHS didn't meet the grant's conditions. It needed to give the city a transition plan as well as an updated budget for 2018, but that wasn't received and the city was unable to release funds without this information.

A spokesperson for the VNHS said it wasn't immediately clear whether the budget and transition had been delivered to the city and that it was looking into the issue.

Melodie Mallinder was at the rally with her son, Marshall, who attended the daycare for five years.

Parents rallied on Friday to try and save Phil Bouvier Family Centre Daycare. (Ken Leedham/CBC)

"It was amazing. It was a big important part of his life, and I feel like this community needs it," said Mallinder.

"Child care in any community is important, but in this community where some people are struggling, it's really important."

Scott Clark, protesting among parents, said the hope is that B.C. politicians will hear the voices of the rallying families and take action.

"We hope our elected officials will step up and do whatever it takes to return this child care back to our community," said Clark.

In a statement, the city said it "shares the concerns of parents over the loss of these valuable licensed spaces" and said it is looking for local alternatives and partners in the area to provide licensed care. 

It encourages parents to contact Westcoast Childcare Resource Centre for information on licensed and registered childcare programs in Vancouver in the meantime.

With files from Angela Sterritt and The Early Edition

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