Budget 2021’s $34 billion commitment to early learning and child care, alongside Chrystia Freeland’s promise that, “this time, we’re going to do it”, is the result of decades of hard work by the broad child care movement, according to feminist historian, Lisa Pasolli.

In a recently published article, laying out the long and fascinating history of Canadian child care advocacy, Pasolli writes that the Budget’s promise to build a publicly-funded child care system that provides affordable, accessible, quality and inclusive early learning and child care includes, “standards that have been lifted from the child care movement.”

Pasolli notes that the history of the child care movement goes back to the early post-war period when a broad coalition came together to oppose the shutting down of the wartime day nurseries which were established by the federal government in 1939 to support mothers working in essential wartime industries. 

Child care advocates never gave up on their call for universal early learning and child care despite many disappointments over the years. Pisolli writes: 

Pick up virtually any report from the past several decades, and what’s striking is how seamlessly they would fit into Freeland’s budget speech. “Child care,” said the Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care in preparation for yet another conference in 1992, “serves not only children and families, it is an essential component of equality and social justice and a necessary prerequisite to job creation, economic renewal and growth.


Lisa Pasolli (@lpasolli) is an assistant professor of history at Queen’s University. She researches the history of gender, social policy, and child care in 20th century Canada. She is also the author of a major report on the 2017 bilateral early learning and child care agreements.