Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC)

What Happened

Amidst numerous government cuts to groups that campaign on women’s issues, the Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) saw its advocacy and lobbying funding decreased first in 2006, and its entire budget eliminated in 2009.

Over the past 100 years, Canadian women have achieved a high degree of equality with Canadian men. These gains were incremental. In 1918, women were given the right to vote in federal elections. In 1938, the minimum wage was extended to women. In 1974, the RCMP hired its first woman. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that job standards could not be based solely on capabilities that a man would have.

These incremental gains were achieved through ongoing campaigns by Canada’s women’s movement. For each gain, women spent years raising their voices for everything from affordable child care to the prevention of violence against women. For instance, years of campaigning on child care resulted in the Supreme Court acting in 1996 to prevent child care payments from being taxable the Thibaudeau case. After the 1990 Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, when a young man shot 14 random women stating “you are all feminists,” women rallied for legislation to protect women, resulting in Canada’s Panel in Violence Against Women.

Reversal of fortunes

Unfortunately, women have been losing ground on issues of equality. For instance, the wage gap between men and women was greater in 2001 than it was in 1981, according to Kathy Lahey, Professor of Law and Gender studies at Queen’s University. On the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, Canada has fallen from 7th place in 2004 to 18th place in 2011.

A report drawn up for a special session of Parliament in March 2010 to discuss the status of women states that “women have lost ground due to the elimination of funding for advocacy groups, the scrapping of a national child-care program and a widening wage gap between men and women.”

The Canadian government’s policies also indirectly impacted women’s advocacy, for instance by cutting funding for the Court Challenges Program.

Childcare hit hard

Since the 1970s, women’s groups have campaigned for an effective national strategy on childcare. Numerous political parties promised it. None delivered, as late as 2004, when the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was advising Canada to double its spending on childcare - to 0.4% of GDP. The Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) then suggested that even 1% of GDP would be appropriate.

However, in 2006, the CCAAC and other groups that campaigned for childcare and women’s equality had their funding reduced or eliminated. The defunding resulted from budget cuts to Status of Women Canada, which provides funds to a variety of Canadian women’s organizations.

The cuts to Status of Women Canada especially targeted federal funding for women’s advocacy work and government lobbying.

Women’s groups argue that the relatively small sums they received for lobbying had an important effect, and that with their lobbying and advocacy work handicapped, it will be  impossible to make systematic changes and advance their cause of women’s equality. “These cuts further undermine the ability of the Government to meet its obligations under international human rights law,” said Kate McInturff, former Executive Director of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), which has since been forced to close due to funding cuts. “Cuts to service providers leave the most vulnerable women in Canada with nowhere safe to go and cuts to policy and advocacy organizations leave women in crisis with no democratic voice with which to cry for help."

Groups call cuts punishment

The government said its cuts to women’s groups were due more to a misappropriation of funding than a rejection of the goals outlined by CCAAC. The government said it wanted to move away from government-funded lobbying, towards result-oriented projects. Transport Minister John Baird said that “the Conservatives have given a record amount of funding to support women's groups and want less talk and more action to support and improve the lives of Canadian girls and women.”

Women’s advocacy groups and opposition parties claimed the funding cuts had less to do with results-oriented projects, and more to do with their criticism of the Harper government’s political ideology. The political opposition also chimed in, with the Liberal party’s leader saying “these women have raised their voices and been punished for it and I think that's absolutely no way to have a relationship.”

The bigger picture

While the government has stated that it does not want to support lobbying for women’s issues or support groups advocating women’s equality, groups doing other kinds of advocacy remain well-financed with public money.

For instance, in February 2012, the federal government spent $54,000 on a retreat for oil company lobbyists. The lobbyists trained Canadian diplomats, stationed in Europe, to lobby against climate change legislation that was being debated in the European Parliament.

New ‘childcare’ policy

In July 2006, the Harper government replaced Canada’s child care programs with a taxable $100 allowance for every child under the age of six, which parents can spend as they see fit. The new system cut the childcare budget by 80% and transferred the responsibility of providing child care to the provinces.

Women’s organizations criticized the move as handouts of public dollars with no accountability and nothing to show in return. CCAAC launched the campaign “Code Blue for Child Care” in 2006, aimed at keeping the existing childcare system in place.

In the 2009 federal budget, funding for CCAAC was completely eliminated. The organization called the cut a mistake, citing research that shows every dollar invested in childcare brings back $2.54 in benefits to society.

Relevant Dates:

  • 1990s-present: The struggle for equality for Canadian women begins to slip backwards.
  • 2004: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) calls on the Canadian government to increase its funding of child care from 0.2% of its GDP to 0.4%.
  • May 2006: The Harper government cuts funding for women’s advocacy work, as well as research and other work on women’s issues, impacting funding for the Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC).
  • April 2006: CCAAC launches “Code Blue for Child Care,” a campaign which aims to prevent budget cuts for the federal child care program.
  • July 2006: The Harper government stops helping to provide affordable child care, and instead begins sending $100 per month to parents of children under the age of 6.
  • 2009: Canada falls in the World Economic Forum gender gap index from 7th to 25th, the last developed country on the list.
  • 2009: Federal government cuts all funding to CCAAC.

Role or Position

Established in 1982, the Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) is a publicly-funded organization working to promote child care as a cornerstone to family policies. It promotes an inclusive, affordable and quality child-care system for Canadians through public education, political action and advocacy campaigns.

Implications and Consequences

  • Free Speech and Equality: The elimination of funding to CCAAC impacts the ability of an effective women’s organization to lobby and advocate for publicly funded, affordable child-care. As Canadian women’s organizations lose the ability to lobby for affordable childcare, fewer women have access to childcare, and are forced to leave the workforce, or take less demanding and well-paying jobs, thus further aggravating gender inequality in Canada.
  • Democracy: The Harper government’s decision to defund CCAAC, along with other groups that advocated policies that contribute to women’s equality, while the government simultaneously funds its ideological allies with taxpayer dollars, shows a deficit in democratic decision-making. No public consultations have taken place on the Harper government’s direct or indirect funding of its corporate and ideological allies, whereas there is strong proven public support for Canada’s former national childcare policy, and women’s equality in general.

Logo from CCAAC.

Date published: 15 April 2012