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CUPE child care workers spent a busy weekend at the annual conference of the Canadian Child Care Federation, making new contacts and connections that deepen CUPE’s involvement in the child care community. The three-day conference was packed to overflowing with more than 600 people, including a strong CUPE delegation.

CUPE had a significant presence as a conference co-sponsor, including a booth at the busy trade show.  There was steady traffic to the CUPE booth, where delegates picked up materials including an updated version of CUPE’s child care booklet, information on research and political action as well as organizing materials from Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. Response to CUPE’s booth and materials was overwhelmingly positive.

Fresh out of a productive two-day meeting, members of CUPE’s national child care working group joined a delegation of child care workers from Nova Scotia, where the conference is taking place, as well as CUPE members from other provinces. The conference is a meeting place for child care workers, advocates, administrators and researchers.

Conference sessions tackled workforce issues and highlighted the ingredients of high-quality learning and care. Political action was also a hot topic. The Code Blue for child care campaign held an advocacy session during the conference. The room crackled with energy from the many delegates who gathered to strategize about continuing the fight for a national child care system. CUPE members participated in the discussions and added their messages to Code Blue’s photo petition about child care.

From the workshops to the entertainment, CUPE had a role to play. In one workshop, local early childhood educators and CUPE members led conference delegates on tours of their child care centers, all chosen for their high-quality programs. CUPE’s support to the conference included sponsoring all the meeting’s cultural events, including a Nova Scotia kitchen party, a storytellers’ circle and a troupe of Acadian dancers.

At the conference banquet, Halifax CUPE members and child care workers Michelle Lohnes and Margo Nickerson introduced La Baie en Joie Acadian dancers. They spoke about CUPE’s 35-year history of child care advocacy and 10,000 child care members, and conveyed how pleased CUPE was to participate in and co-sponsor the conference.

A draw for a travel gift certificate drew many delegates to the booth. The winner, Annette Coates, is an assistant director (and former CUPE member) at Halifax’s Peter Green Hall Children’s Centre.

CUPE’s child care activism at the conference continues a push to organize early childhood educators in Nova Scotia, after successfully organizing three new Halifax centres. CUPE has a seat on the board of the provincial organization hosting the conference, Child Care Connections Nova Scotia. The child care working group hosted a pre-conference networking reception that brought together members of the Nova Scotia child care community, as well as board members of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada.

There are also strong organizing campaigns underway with early learning and child care workers in BC and Ontario. Organizers from Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia met leading up to the conference, sharing strategies and learning from each others’ experiences.