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RICHMOND, BC—Delegates at the Early Childhood Educators of BC (ECEBC) 37th Annual Conference, entitled “Between Two Seas,” were inspired by local, national and international presenters. As the 780 delegates registered, CUPE presented them with a small fuchsia first aid kit featuring the message “CUPE Working Together for Caregivers, Children, and Quality Care” along with information about our union.

This was the first ECEBC conference where unions played an integral role,” says Randi Gurholt-Seary, member of CUPE 15 and Early Childcare Educator. “It’s exciting because with everyone working together, we can bring positive change for children, families and workers.”

Jamie Kass, chair of CUPE National Childcare Working Group and member of the Child Care Sector Council of Canada, challenged and inspired delegates with her message that unity is needed between coalition partners across Canada in order to build a national Child Care Program.

Kass is widely known by childcare advocates across Canada. She boldly reminded delegates that, “The need to organize and unionize is not only a union message. It’s a message embraced by our coalition and partners as a necessity – to strengthen our profession and bring about positive change.” When Sheila Davidson, Executive Director of ECEBC, warmly thanked Kass with “we love you, Jamie,” the audience heartily applauded.

CUPE’s booth was very popular with delegates. The booth featured CUPE’s research on multi-national for profit childcare agencies, as well as draws for CUPE “Child Care Now” t-shirts, water bottles and pedometers. The booth was staffed by CUPE National and B.C. childcare working group members, – Michael Lanier (CUPE 1936 president) and Randi Gurholt-Seary (CUPE 15) – along with Cindy Busby from CUPE 1936 and Cheryl Colborne, CUPE National representative.

Conference delegates were especially interested in the expert international perspective of panel presenters Helen May (PhD, University of Otago, New Zealand), Gunilla Dahlberg (PhD, University of Stockholm, Sweden), Radhika Viruru (PhD, Texas A&M University, USA), and Kylie Smith (PhD, University of Melborne, Australia). Presenters shared research and told delegates of their country’s experience in early learning. Their words inspired delegates to keep moving forward to build a public child care system that appropriately recognizes children and this important service.

Minister of Children and Families, Linda Reid, attended a morning plenary session and was greeted with only polite applause by Early Childhood Educators. The provincial Liberal government has done little to meet the needs of children, working families, educators and child care organizations across British Columbia. The Campbell government incentive of providing Early Childhood Education students with financial incentives does not address the challenges of low wages and lack of benefits, once they are in the workforce. A declining workforce and increasing waitlists for families contribute to the current crisis in childcare in B.C.

The conference was held this past weekend in partnership with the Canadian Child Care Federation. CUPE co-sponsored the conference along with the University of Victoria, Ryerson University, and BCGEU. The conference had strong representation from CUPE and BCGEU, both as resources to Early Childhood Educators and as workshop presenters and speakers. CUPE represents 10,000 childcare workers across Canada.

More conference photos