It’s a sunny Saturday in Squamish, and there are more strollers than usual being pushed through downtown.
On Oct. 5, around 50 parents — and at least 25 kids — formed a peaceful protest to call for improving childcare in Squamish. They joined 19 other B.C. communities who hosted stroller brigades for the cause.
When it’s time for Serra Boten, the organizer behind Squamish’s brigade, to speak, she’s running after her young child. The group chuckles when she apologizes and quips, “I need childcare.” Even though the other parents laugh, it’s a serious issue in Squamish.
Several parents spoke at the event, including Kareena Harwood. A local mom with another one on the way, Harwood is also an early childhood educator (ECE).
“I can’t return to work, because there’s not space for my child. If I did find space, it is more than my paycheque. We need not only quality care, we need people who are qualified to care for your wonderful, lovely children — but we also need to pay rent and we can’t,” she told the crowd, calling for a living wage. “If I leave the workforce, that is eight of you that lose your care.”
Mayor Karen Elliott and Coun. John French were among the marching protestors, and addressed the collected crowd, calling for action from the provincial government.
Elliott shared her own concerns about daycare, recalling when she was first elected to council, but didn’t have daycare options during council meetings.
"We know the province is testing their $10-a-day daycare plan. We know that trial goes until March," Elliott told the protestors. "This is the time to write to the minister, to your MLA, to your premier and say 'Please secure the $10-a-day daycare plan in the 2020 budget.'"
She also recommended writing to federal parties and election candidates to support the program.
On a local level, French said the District is working to create more daycare spaces, including an anticipated 16 spaces in Brackendale. He said the District is working in collaboration with the school district and Sea to Sky Community Services, as well as the province.
"One of the reasons that I'm committed to working with those agencies is because I want for your families to have the kind of daycare experience that my family had: Reasonable, affordable, quality and reliable. It's not a lot to ask for," he said.