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Open Letter - COVID-19: Impacting the lives of young children for many years to come

 

Montreal, November 16, 2020 — Young families are among those who have been the most affected by COVID-19. If we don’t take action now, the repercussions of the pandemic on children 5 and under will be dire and long-lasting. 

With many educational services for young children put on hold during lockdown, the use of masks altering interaction in learning environments, strains on household finances and mental health, a weakened social safety net, the effect of work from home on family-work balance, unprecedented stress during pregnancy, mothers who have given birth without their partner, delays in healthcare services, increases in domestic abuse, and greater housing and food insecurity, young children are on the frontline of this crisis. The critical period of transition to kindergarten has been jeopardized by COVID-19-related restrictions and the cancellation of many of the activities that favour interaction between schools, families and the community as a whole.

And this is only some of the collateral damage that has compromised the health and well-being of younger members of our society. The consequences are even worse for children who were already vulnerable before the onset of the pandemic.

How can we, individually and collectively, do more and do better to nurture the development of babies, toddlers and preschoolers in the midst of this crisis?

Our basic instinct is the right one: we have to keep our children out of harm’s way.

How? By ensuring they have access to the resources they need to thrive.

We all contribute to a child’s upbringing in one way or another. Parents most importantly, but they are not alone. Educators, neighbours, employers, policymakers and the general public all have a role to play. We have the ability to make a real difference in their lives, especially the community organizations and local services that are so essential in bringing stakeholders together. The expertise is already in place, but the needs are even greater now in the midst of COVID-19. More time and effort than ever before must be invested in the well-being of the next generation – the adults of tomorrow. We have to make sure they all get an equal shot at blossoming into their best selves and becoming well-rounded, productive members of society. Together, we can – and we must – make this happen.

Today marks the beginning of Early Childhood Week. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to give a voice to the 530,000 children aged 5 and under in Quebec (close to 600,000 if you count all those who will be born in the coming months). Let’s make early childhood development a true social priority.

Our response is already in motion but the pandemic has brought to light how urgent it is for us to move forward faster. Taking action now will reduce the short- and long-term costs to society with regard to health, social and educational services in addition to helping keep school dropout rates from rising.

The importance of early childhood development, from the womb through to preschool years, cannot be overstated. What we do now will have a decisive influence on how solid the foundation is for their lives as they grow older.

It’s time for everyone across the province to step forward. Let’s put young children at the heart of our priorities. Let’s set an example for others to follow. By joining forces now and fighting for what they need, we can build a better future for them and for us all.

This letter is co-signed by supporters of the Collectif petite enfance

Elise Bonneville
Director, Collectif petite enfance

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Doreen Assaad
Mayor, City of Brossard and Espace MUNI President 

Thomas Bastien
General Manager, Association pour la santé publique du Québec 

Geneviève Bélisle
General Manager, Association Québécoise des centres de la petite enfance 

Maxime Bergeron
President, Cour à bois Natural Playground

Zoé Bergeron
Coordinator, Réseau québécois pour la réussite éducative 

Nathalie Bigras
Full professor, UQAM 

Caroline Biron
Managing Partner, Woods LLP 

Kim Boutin
Olympic medalist, short track speed skating 

Élise Boyer
General Manager, Fondation Olo 

Monique Brodeur
Full professor in special education, UQAM  

Yolande Brunelle
Instructor, Éducation préscolaire et enseignement primaire, UQAM 

Marie-Eve Brunet-Kitchen
Executive Director, Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires Famille 

Caroline Calvé
Snowboarding Olympian and Head of Services for Athletes and Training Groups for ESIM  

Denis Chouinard
President, Quebec Public Library Association 

Jean-Marc Chouinard
President, Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation (Naître et grandir / Early Childhood Observatory) 

Louise Deschatelets
Actress and columnist 

Martine Desjardins
General Manager, Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois et chroniqueuse

Sonia Ethier
President, Centrale des syndicats du Québec 

Gabrielle Fontaine
Actress

Pierre Fortin
Emeritus Professor of Economics, UQAM 

Stéphanie Gareau
Executive Director, Marie-Vincent Foundation 

Catherine Haeck
Professor, Research group on human capital development, economics department, ESG UQAM 

Alex Harvey
World Champion and Olympian, cross-country skiing 

Jean-Pierre Hotte
Ex-President, Avenir d’enfants 

Jennifer Johnson
Executive Director, Community Health and Social Services Network 

Dr Gilles Julien
President, Dr Julien Foundation 

Carl Lacharité
Full Professor, Department of Psychology, UQTR 

Guillaume Landry
Director General, International Bureau for Children’s Rights 

Amélie Landry
General Manager, Réseau des Centres de Ressources Périnatales du Québec 

Michel Leblanc
President and Chief Executive Officer, Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal 

André Lebon
Consultant and former president of a Commission on early childhood education  

Annie Lemieux
President, LS4 / LSR GesDev 

Francine Lessard
General Manager, Conseil québécois des services éducatifs à la petite enfance 

Jacques Létourneau
President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) 

Karel Mayrand
President and CEO, Foundation of Greater Montréal 

Noémie Montminy
P.h.D candidate, observation and assessment of child development in educational setting 

Jamie Orchard
Journalist & Founder, The Second Act Project 

Jean-François Parenteau
Mayor of the borough of Verdun 

Ghislain Picard
Chief, Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador

Dr Éric Poulin
Optometrist, President, Ordre des optométristes du Québec 

Marie Rhéaume
General Manager, Réseau pour un Québec Famille 

Marie-Josée Richer
Co-founder, Prana 

André Robitaille
Actor and host 

Sylvie Rochette
Co-founder and General Manager, Regroupement Partage 

Maryse Rondeau
President, Association d’éducation Préscolaire du Québec 

Caroline Schindler
Representative, Regional Early Childhood Steering Commitees 

Marjolaine Siouï
General Manager, First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission 

Tanya Sirois
General Manager, Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec 

Kim St-Pierre
Olympian (goalkeeper), Manager, Business Development, BOKS Canada 

Sandrine Tarjon
Director, Association des haltes-garderies communautaires du Québec 

Gisèle Tassé-Goodman
President, Réseau FADOQ 

Simon Telles
President, Force Jeunesse 

Juan Torres, Ph.D.
Certified urban planner, professor at the School of urban planning and landscape architecture, Université de Montréal 

Stéphanie Trudeau
Executive Vice President, Québec, Énergir 

Guillaume Vermette
Humanitarian clown 

Fabrice Vil
Co-founder and President, Pour 3 Points, certified integral development coach, lawyer 

Raymond Villeneuve
General Manager, Regroupement pour la Valorisation de la Paternité 

Dr Stanley Vollant
Surgeon, President of Puamun Meshkenu

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Early Childhood Week is an opportunity to raise awareness, promote dialogue and engage society about early childhood matters.