Establishing a Right to Child Care

A matter of equality

Women continue to perform the majority of unpaid caregiving in our society. As they try to balance caregiving for children and other aspects of their lives, a lack of affordable adequate child care creates significant barriers. Women may be forced to choose jobs with flexible schedules at the expense of job security, may take on more precarious, part-time and lower paying employment, or may be unable to work at all. The lack of access to child care, often due to its prohibitive cost, can force women into financial dependence, which undermines their ability to flee violence, to parent their children, and to fully participate in many aspects of society.

Despite clear international requirements for child care under the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, inadequate and unaffordable child care is seldom identified as a legal human rights violation for women. As a result, discussions about how to create a child care system that supports women’s full and equal participation in society have been relegated to the realm of unenforceable public policy.

Taking action

To address the issue, West Coast LEAF has undertaken the Right to Child Care Project, which explores the consequences of inadequate childcare on women’s human rights. Firmly rooted in lived experiences, this project is based on stories from individual women about how the inaccessibility or inadequacy of child care has impacted their lives. These stories have been collected in the form of affidavits to help us to determine whether the provincial government has legal obligations with respect to child care under constitutional, human rights, or international law. Our report, High Stakes: The Impacts of Child Care on the Human Rights of Women and Childrenanalyzes these issues in depth and shines light on the path forward.

In September 2016, we also wrote a joint policy submission with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC to call on Canada’s provincial and federal governments to take meaningful action on child care to respect women’s rights under the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).