1. Getting crazy for the kids

For Camil Bouchard, it was watching his words come alive. In 1992, the professor from the University of Québec at Montréal had submitted his report to the government: Un Québec fou de ses enfants (A Quebec Crazy for its Children). The catchy title was a reminder of just how important it is for every child to have at least one adult who is crazy about her or him. Bouchard asked Quebecers to meet the needs of young children and youth with equity, generosity and compassion. The report’s stirring call to action galvanized children’s activists, became a blueprint for policy makers and ultimately changed the lives of Quebecers.

Image 1Academics from many fields have tracked the outcomes of Quebec’s children’s initiatives, and the results have been truly amazing. In just a decade, Quebec has gone from the bottom to the top on many important social indicators. From having Canada’s lowest female labour
participation, it now has the highest.3 Where Quebec women were once less likely to attend post-secondary education than their counterparts in the rest of Canada, today they dominate.4  At the same time, student scores on standardized test have gone from below the Canadian average to above.

Despite working more, Quebec women are also having more babies,5 and Quebec dads are more involved in child rearing. Eighty-two percent take paid leave after the birth of their infants, compared to just 12 percent of fathers in the rest of the country.6 In addition, childhood programs that allow mothers to work have slashed Quebec’s child poverty rates by 50 percent.7

Finally, in an analysis that should catch the attention of policy makers everywhere, Montreal economist Pierre Fortin revealed that the tax revenues from mothers who are able to work because of low cost children’s programming pay for the entire cost of Quebec’s system.8

The Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation marked the anniversary of Professor Bouchard’s report this fall. The celebration dovetails naturally with the release of this third edition of the Early Years Study 3: Making Decisions, Taking Action. While almost 20 years apart, both documents make a compelling case for why policy makers should focus attention and resources on young children and their families.

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