Families in Bella Coola will soon have access to 100 new licensed child care spaces as part of the Province’s ongoing commitment to increasing child care through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
“By providing 100 child care spaces in a brand-new, up-to-date building, with Nuxalk language instruction and opportunities for families to be a big part of kids’ learning, this facility will bring much-needed child care for families in Bella Coola, while strengthening important community and cultural connections,” said Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast.
The Childcare BC New Spaces Fund is supporting the Nuxalk Acwsalcmalslayc Academy of Learning Society (NAALS) to create 24 preschool spaces and 76 school-age spaces. The centre is expected to open in February 2021.
“The NAALS After School Care building, made possible with provincial funding, will provide a place of healing, growing and knowing for our children and their families,” said Leonard Pootlass, chairperson, NAALS. “The building design and the programs within connect to our Nuxalk Traditional Territory in a spiritual and cultural way. The new building will house programs, including mask song and dance, QQP language nest and traditional foods, while the enhanced outdoor spaces add nature-based forest play.”
This project incorporates a longhouse design and reflects a Nuxalk architectural approach. The building will be fully accessible. It will include indoor and outdoor activity space, as well as a room designed for extra-sensory programs to assist children with autism. Wraparound services will be provided through community partnerships like the Nuxalk Nation’s Health and Wellness program. The centre will include a kitchen where the children will learn about culturally valued food. It will also have space for art, music, dance and other cultural activities. Preservation of local language will be enhanced through the preschool Language Immersion Nest program, where only Nuxalk is spoken by the staff to students for a minimum of four hours per day, four days per week.
“Children flourish when connected to their community, culture and traditions,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This new centre will give children the chance to explore their culture through art, music, dance, food and language as they learn, play and grow. These opportunities will help ensure traditions of the Nuxalk people are passed down to the next generation.”
The Childcare BC New Spaces Fund has provided funding for an average of 700 new licensed spaces each month. So far, more than 16,800 new spaces have been funded throughout the province, helping parents return to work, go back to school or pursue other opportunities to help support their families.
“By working in partnership with Indigenous governments we are creating child care spaces that meet the unique needs of local Indigenous families and help preserve important traditions and teachings,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “By working together, we are getting closer to our goal of giving families across B.C. quality, affordable child care that will help to shape our communities for generations to come.”
These new spaces are part of the fastest creation of child care spaces in B.C.’s history. An additional 4,100 spaces, funded through the 2017 Budget Update and the Early Learning and Child Care agreement with the Government of Canada, means that more than 20,200 new licensed spaces have been funded since July 2017.
Investing in child care and early childhood education is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.