Indigenous families in over 30 communities throughout the province will benefit from more than 600 new, free licensed child care spaces and expanded Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) programs.
These programs support Indigenous families in becoming stronger and keep children connected to their culture.
The announcement was made by Katrine Conroy, B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development, at an "honouring the land ceremony" hosted by the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society in Grand Forks.
“Aboriginal Head Starts offer immediate supports to families who want culturally based early learning and care programs for their children,” said Conroy. “Not only is this funding helping to expand existing programs and services, it also includes building child care into the AHS model, something that families and communities have been asking for and need.”
The ceremony was held on the grounds of the new Talking Little Feet Aboriginal Head Start Centre, which will support 24 new spaces when it opens in the new year.
“High-quality, culturally specific early learning and child care programs that are designed for and with Indigenous families and communities make a genuine difference in the early years of Indigenous children,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. “The Government of Canada is pleased to work with the Government of B.C. and with Indigenous partners to better empower young children with a strong sense of identity.”
Families in Surrey celebrated with Bruce Ralston, B.C.'s Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology and MLA for Surrey-Whalley, who attended on behalf of Katrina Chen, B.C.'s Minister of State for Child Care, as the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association is receiving funding to create 24 new spaces in the community.
“Providing an environment for children that includes learning about their culture is an important part of their social well-being,” said Ralston. “The Aboriginal Head Start program is crucial because it invests in the development of children with cultural identity at the forefront. I am proud to see the expansion of this program throughout B.C., including my home city, Surrey.”
AHS programs offer early learning, child care and parenting programs that are available at no cost to families. Programming is being expanded to include more culturally relevant early learning and increase the number of licensed child care spaces.
“By investing in Aboriginal Head Start programs, we can strengthen communities and provide more families with access to the services and supports they need close to home,” said Chen. “We know Indigenous children thrive when they’re connected to their culture. These programs support our broader Childcare BC plan and provide quality early care and learning that is rooted in Indigenous culture, giving children the best start in life.”
Funding is being provided through the $30-million investment the Province announced with the federal government last year to enhance AHS through partnerships with the Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC (AHSABC) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Each organization is using the funding to leverage existing supports and programs and create new centres to improve services to Indigenous families.
AHSABC is spreading $19.5 million over three years among 12 urban/off-reserve organizations. FNHA is splitting $10.5 million over three years between 19 First Nations.
Both organizations have been delivering AHS services and have the structure in place to offer support, mentorship, training and evaluation to the new sites.
Each AHS program is unique and designed to meet the needs of the individual communities it serves.
Leila Aubichon, president, and Sheena Rogers, vice-president, Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC –
“The Aboriginal Head Start Association of British Columbia is profoundly grateful to the Government of B.C. for its funding and support to the Growing AHS initiative. Over the past year, we have grown our programs from 12 preschools to an additional 12 child care centres across the province. We are dedicated to reaching many more Indigenous children and their families living in urban areas by creating AHS communities that are restoring our spirits and strengthening society.”
Sonia Isaac-Mann, vice-president, operations, First Nations Health Authority –
“This program will change the futures of 600 of our children and their families by providing culturally safe support and care for them at a critical stage of their development.”
- The $30-million provincial investment in AHS programming is part of the $153-million, three-year Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) partnership agreement between the Province and the Government of Canada.
- Under the agreement, provincial and territorial governments can use funding to expand and enhance early learning and child care programs and services that benefit parents and young children and reflect particular local and regional needs.
- Investments under the ELCC agreement complement the Province’s Childcare BC goals to improve access to child care by supporting British Columbians who need it most – from young parents, to children with special needs and Indigenous communities.
Learn more about the Aboriginal Head Start Association of B.C.: www.ahsabc.com
For more information about Aboriginal Head Start programs provided by the First Nations Health Authority, visit:
For a backgrounder detailing the communities and organizations receiving AHS funding, visit: