British Columbia

Parents stunned to learn Downtown Eastside daycare to close

The sudden closure of a downtown daycare in Vancouver has upset parents who rely on the service.

Multi-million dollar childcare funding announcement made at centre in February

Angela Giannoulis worries her husband will have to take a leave of absence from work to care for three-year-old Nikolas, if the centre closes. (Submitted by Angela Giannoulis )

The sudden closure of a downtown Vancouver daycare centre has upset parents and raised questions about the timing of the decision.

Angela Giannoulis, whose three-year-old son Nikolas has been attending the Phil Bouvier Centre for two years, says the idea of a closure is heartbreaking.

"The relief to know that while you are at work your child is being lovingly cared for … and to think that's being taken away, and we have to start from scratch to try and find another space again in this city," she said.

The 49-space centre opened in June 2008 on Princess Avenue in Strathcona.

It's run by the Vancouver Native Health Society (VnHS), and is one of only two downtown that caters to First Nations needs.

A letter went out to parents on Monday announcing the centre will close as of July 27.

"As a not-for-profit society, there is only so much we can do with the funding we are given," wrote Robin Vermette, the chief operating officer with the Vancouver Native Society.

"Unfortunately, the daycare has proved to be incapable of running at a sustainable financial level," the letter went on to say.

Parents received the letter (pictured above) notifying them the Phil Bouvier Centre would be closing July 27, 2018 (Submitted by Angela Giannoulis)

Giannoulis fears her husband may have to take a leave from work to care for Nicolas if another operator isn't found by the July deadline.

"I want to say to the government help stop this," she said. "Let's work together and find a solution and get the funding that centre needs and help the families that are so dependant on it."

The decision came down just days after the centre's employees applied to join a union.

The president of the B.C. Government Employees Union says the closure makes no sense at a time when governments have announced more than $1 billion to provide better early childhood care in B.C. 

"This is an award-winning centre, it serves families that are pretty marginalized," said union president Stephanie Smith.

Federal-provincial funding of $153 million for B.C. childcare programs was announced at the Bouvier Centre in February.

"Minister Conroy herself made a childcare announcement at this centre, so certainly hope that there's a role for government," said Smith. "There's much that can be done for sure."

City and province hold out hope

The Ministry of Children and Family Development and the City of Vancouver issued a joint statement on the closure late Wednesday.

It said the province and the city are working with the Vancouver Native Health "to explore options for preserving the existing 49 space childcare program."

"We are hopeful all parties can come to a resolution that allows this childcare centre to continue operating," it read.

The city also noted that Central City Foundation was approved for a $200,000 capital grant to renovate the centre in 2007, on the condition that the centre remain a childcare facility for at least 15 years. Otherwise, the foundation will need to repay the grant.

The application that was filed at the labour board to allow workers to join the union will be voted on this Friday.