VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – On Friday, a daycare in Strathcona will be closing for good, despite the efforts of parents over the last couple of months.
Families will be marking the occasion with a rally in front of the Phil Bouvier Family Centre in the morning.
The centre is run by the Vancouver Native Health Society, whose directors decided at the end of May to close the space, due to financial problems.
The decision came within hours of directors learning staff had begun the process to sign up with the BC Government Employees Union.
Parents learned of the daycare’s fate in June, and at the time, directors had intended to close the daycare in July.
Since then, parents launched a petition, and urged other agencies and the City of Vancouver to get involved, to avert a closure.
The union also got involved, filing an unfair labour practice application to the BC Labour Relations Board related to the closure.
A settlement was then reached to keep the centre open for four more months.
Angela Giannoulis is a mom of a three-year-old who attended the daycare until recently. She has been spear-heading the campaign to keep the centre open.
“Why did the staff unionize? Because the working conditions over the last two years were terrible,” she insists.
Vancouver Coastal Health has cited the centre for various infractions over the years, including staffing levels and play area enclosures.
Giannoulis is lucky. She has found another space for her son, and she attributes that to his age. She says it would have been much harder had he been younger, as spaces for infants and toddlers are much harder to come by.
But her sister, who also used the daycare, hasn’t been so fortunate.
“My sister hasn’t found another space for her son. She’s quitting her job because she can’t find childcare,” she says. “Another family have three kids in the centre. The mom is also quitting her job.”
She says her anger is directed at Vancouver Native Health Society and the Central City Foundation, which owns the building on Princess Avenue.
“This could have been a very different scenario if people had been transparent and accountable – if they had come out and said they had been struggling financially, or that they didn’t want to be involved in the daycare anymore.”
In July, the City of Vancouver did offer a $42,000 grant to the society, but the money was never transferred to the agency because it had not met the conditions of the grant. The conditions included an updated budget and a transition plan for the centre.
Giannoulis says the purpose of Friday’s rally is two-fold.
“We want to pay tribute and honour the work of the teachers over the last ten years. And we want to protest this closure – this arbritrary closure – and the violation of the human rights of our children.”
The centre accommodated 49 children, 24 of them were for infants and toddlers.
Its website does not refer to the closure. It still has a reference to a BC Childcare Award of Excellence it received in 2011.