News | Daycare collective provides radical child care

Volunteers argue free collective childcare is a method of political organizing rather than a charity

[Correction appended]

Staying active in community organizing as a parent is hard, but the
Montreal Childcare Collective (MCC) is making life a little easier for
the city’s politically-minded moms and dads.

Formed in 2004, the collective consists of volunteers that provide
free childcare for community groups during meetings and
demonstrations, explained Leslie Bagg, a former McGill student and
volunteer with the MCC.

“We provide help for groups that don’t have a huge budget for
childcare, but who want to make their organization more accessible for
parents,” Bagg said.

The collective works closely with groups working in the social justice
field in Montreal that often need childcare – such as the Filipino
Women’s Centre, the Immigrant Workers’ Centre, and Solidarity Across
Borders.

MCC also runs workshops for groups that want to begin doing their own,
autonomous, non-authoritarian childcare – such as the Montreal Urban
Community Sustainment Project’s Free School in NDG, where they held a
workshop last Sunday.

The collective functions out of the Concordia chapter of the Quebec
Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) as a working group, funded in
part by Concordia students. In the past it has also functioned through
QPIRG-McGill.

Volunteers stressed that the childcare network is first and foremost a
form of political action, aimed at allowing more families to get
involved in community organizing. It also provides a non-authoritarian
approach to childcare.

“It’s kind of a statement, that kids don’t just exist in their houses
and in their own families. They exist in the world,” said Selena Ross,
a former McGill student and organizer with the MCC.

“It’s a more communal approach to child-raising, where the community
can get to know the kids.”

Both Bagg and Ross stressed that the very existence of the group
allowed activism to become more open to families and women.

“Part of the goal is to get more families involved, and to make
meetings more family-friendly,” Bagg said.

“It’s also about making community organizing more accessible to women,
especially single moms,” Roy added, saying there is huge demand for
the MCC’s services among new immigrants.

“It’s a class struggle. So many people can’t afford babysitters,” Roy said.

Ross explained that a major influence on non-authoritarian childcare
was the work of Haim Gibott, whose techniques for conversing with
children have been taught for decades. Gibott stressed strong
interpersonal skills, an emphasis on communication, isolating problems
rather than people, and the importance of play.

But the collective is not all carefree fun and games. The organization
faces major ongoing difficulties and questions, many of them ethical
ones.

One is a question of money – by offering free childcare, some have
questioned whether it lowers the value of childcare as a whole and
suggests that childcare is something which should not be paid for. As
well, volunteers are often offered money for their services – but the
offerings are so random that it is hard to decide on a fair and
equitable way of distributing the extra funds.

Another, more pressing issue is whether the volunteers should make
themselves available for private, free childcare. Roy stressed that
she has often personally offered free childcare for recent immigrants,
for whom Quebec subsidized daycare may be impossible.

But on the whole, while the volunteers realize that childcare is
inaccessible for many, a free, volunteer-run childcare system is at
present unsustainable.

“We can’t open ourselves up – there’s just so much need,” Bagg said.

Still, the volunteers stressed that collective childcare serves as a
crucial political tool in making organizing more accessible, and
making political work a community affair.

“It’s nice to know how many of them can make it, and stay involved –
moms, dads, and kids,” Bagg said.

Groups wishing to get organized with the MCC should contact them at
childcarecollective@riseup.net.

The Daily first reported that MCC organizers considered its work partially a charitable gesture; in fact this is not the case. Also, it misspelled Selena Ross’s name. The Daily regrets the errors


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