Teddy bear with a bandage and the message Save Sioux Lookout Child CareFamilies in Sioux Lookout can be assured that child care services will continue in the region after CUPE and the Kenora District Services Board (KDSB) penned a deal to ensure Biidaaban and Sioux Mountain Public School Children’s Centres avert closure.

“Families, workers, and the broader community of Sioux Lookout rallied together to save Sioux Lookout child care—we are truly thankful for their unwavering support and quick action to ensure the continuity of vital child care services in the region,” says Kristin Wray, a parent, child care worker, and Vice-President of CUPE Local 2141. “It’s a relief for families, workers, and our community who all benefit from quality child care provided by workers who are treated with respect and dignity.”

A coalition of parents, workers, and community supporters sent hundreds of letters to council members, Mayor Doug Lawrance, and the KDSB, demanding that they ensure that child care remain in the region.

“The municipality’s shameful decision to close the centres, and issue layoff notices to 17 frontline child care workers, following the KDSB’s refusal to move forward with the service transfer, left workers, families and the broader community rightfully concerned and fearful of service disruption,” says Wray. “We’re thankful that the KDSB has ultimately chosen to accept dedicated, highly skilled, and experienced child care workers, and their current workplace rights, especially now as a widespread child care worker shortage and waitlists for child care continue to leave families without the necessary support they need.”

The union asserts that the confusion and fear regarding the future of child care in the region could have been easily avoided had municipality and the KDSB consulted with families, workers, and the broader community to ensure an orderly service transition. The KDSB’s initial refusal to accept frontline child care workers, and their current collective agreement rights, and councillor’s refusal to meet with constituents regarding the situation is concerning, reports the union.

“Families and workers simply wanted to see a seamless transition of services where service quality, space accessibility, and workers’ rights were maintained and protected,” says Wray. “From the beginning, workers have always wanted to continue doing the important care and early learning work they do for the families of Sioux Lookout, and maintain their current, modest working conditions that were not guaranteed in the service transfer agreement.”

The union will continue to work with families, community members, local businesses, community agencies, and decision makers to advocate for an accessible, affordable, not-for-profit system of child care and early learning in Sioux Lookout.