Quebec Court of Appeal upholds decision to allow asylum seekers and their children access to subsidized daycare

"Our children are accepted today," says Maria an asylum seeker from Angola, after the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a decision to allow asylum seekers and their children access to subsidized daycares. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By Alyssia Rubertucci

The children of asylum seekers in Quebec will now have access to subsidized daycares CPEs.

Since 2018, a decision from the then-provincial Liberal government, maintained by the CAQ, meant that even those with work permits didn’t have access to subsidized daycares.

But that was challenged in court since 2019. In 2022, the Daycare Access Committee won their challenge and Quebec’s Appeal Court just upheld that decision this week.

It’s seen as a victory for asylum seekers like Maria from Angola.

(Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

“I’m very happy because our children are accepted today,” she said at a press conference on Friday. “It’s been difficult for us single mothers, asylum seekers, we left our countries for different reasons to save our lives and our children’s.” 

Maria and her daughter left Angola and arrived in Quebec one year ago to the day. She says she’s been at a disadvantage being excluded from subsidized daycare.

“Arriving in Canada, we have the strength to work to create a better life,” she said. “But without daycares, it’s been difficult for us to integrate. Difficult to find housing and a job.”

Now she and others like Ileana from Nicaragua can finally move forward with their lives here.

(Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

“I’m excited to be more active in Quebec, we’re people that came here to integrate into society,” Ileana said.

“This decision is a good one for us, for the government to support us,” said Maria.

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that excluding asylum seekers from daycares “constitutes discrimination based on sex.”

“It’s not every day that the courts find that the government discriminated against the whole class of women and find orders as a remedy that they included right away,” said Guillaume Grenier, lawyer on the case.

The benefit now applies to asylum seekers with work permits. But those are usually given within a few months of arrival.

“We know a lot of families that went yesterday to inscribe on the waiting list, as everyone that is living in Quebec so we’re just so happy now,” says Maryse Poisson, the Director of Social Initiatives at Collectif Bienvenue and a co-founder of the Daycare Access Committee.

“We’re not talking about any privileged access to subsidized childcare for claimants to sign up, it’s the same access services as everyone else,” said Marisa Berry Méndez of Amnesty International Canada Francophone. “The lack of capacity and spots is not due to the presence of immigrants, but rather to lack of adequate funding and prioritization by successive governments.”

The government will have 60 days to decide if they want to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We really hope that this time they’re gonna accept decisions of the court and integration policies for refugee claimants to be able to study French work and have their children cared for,” said Poisson.

Ileana appealed directly to the government.

“We really don’t want them to appeal this,” she said. “In the name of single mothers, we hope to integrate and be active in society.”

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