Saqliavik Childcare Centre


Saqliavik - Place to hold baby on the lap

P.O Box 429
Kuujuaraapik Québéc J0M 1G0
Tel. 819-929-3361
Fax 819-929-3520
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Counselor : Cassandra Tabor
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Number of places 40
Infant (0-17 months)  5
Children (18-59 months) 35

Saqliavik-PIKSaqliavik Childcare Centre, Kuujjuarapik

Kuujjuaraapik (population: 1210)

Kuujjuaraapik –which is also known as Great Whale River to the English, Poste de la Baleine to the French, and Whapmagoostui to the Cree– has been inhabited for nearly 2900 years. Nestled along the coast of Hudson Bay, the adjoining Cree and Inuit communities have a total population of a little more than 1200. The area has witnessed several significant changes over the last several decades. These changes include the establishment of trading posts in the 1820s, the arrival of missionaries beginning in the 1880s, as well as medical assistance and social support in the first half of the 20th century. The main activities of the Inuit of Kuujjuarapik are caribou, seal and beluga hunting, along with retail sales, arts and crafts production, the commercial fur trade and the distribution of petroleum products.

Among the services offered in Kuujjuaraapik, basic municipal services (by the Northern village) and health care (through the CLSC), one of the community’s greatest developments is its childcare centre, Saqliavik. Saqliavik was established in 1999. Elder Louisa Fleming as well as nurses Doris MacDonald and Bella Forest, were key in setting up the successful building blocks of this modern day childcare centre.

Saqliavik Childcare Centre

Saqliavik’s origins are said to have begun at the White house, where Doris MacDonald and Bella Forest helped children suffering from anaemia. Mothers and children would visit these two women regularly to discuss nutritional issues, such as how to increase iron levels in children’s diets. In fact, a nutrition program was designed in the community in this manner to help control the problem of anaemia. Training was delivered to residents who wanted to learn about healthy cooking. Later, Doris and Bella were involved at the outset of discussions on the creation of a childcare centre in Kuujjuaraapik.

During the 1990s, meetings were held to identify childcare needs and eventual services. Louisa Fleming attended these meetings and encouraged the community to do the same. On several occasions, Louisa even took her campaign to the local FM radio airwaves where she expanded her comments on the importance of childcare, reminding the community that the children were their future and that they needed a safe and healthy place to grow up. As the new childcare project progressed and building of the centre began, Doris MacDonald and Bella Forest started to recruit educators for early childhood education training. Indeed, many of the first educators at the Saqliavik Childcare Centre were mothers who had visited Dora and Bella regularly in the White house.

Early Childhood Education Training

In 1998, training on nutrition and early childhood education were offered simultaneously at the White house. The early childhood education training was moreover organized by the Cégep Saint-Félicien. Some participants noted that the early childhood education training was long and detailed, but the benefits were clearly understood by everyone involved: Women claimed it helped them become better mothers with a better understanding of their children’s needs; educators felt better prepared to deal with children through their different developmental stages; and school teachers recognized the advantages of having trained educators work with children at the pre-school level.

Louisa Fleming use to stress that the Saqliavik Childcare Centre was not intended to be “just a baby-sitting house. [Educators] are there to teach the children.” Indeed, the training delivered by the Cégep Saint-Félicien –which is still being offered today– does seem to have helped educators prepare children in surprising ways for their future academic endeavours.

Saqliavik and the Community

Although some people could readily see the benefits of having a childcare centre set up in the community, others were more reluctant to embrace this foreign institution. Some opponents suggested that childcare was an issue for the community and residents should be the ones providing care for their children. Conversely, others saw childcare as an aid to parents and grandparents who were seeking ways to provide better quality care for their children and grandchildren. Many parents have commented that, before the Saqliavik Childcare Centre was opened, a major concern was trying to find appropriate sitters and the money necessary for these services. Some felt a sense of great relief when the centre opened up. For seven dollars a day, children had a safe, clean, healthy place to go while parents carried out their daily activities. As a result of this service, grandparents were able to spend more time devoted to traditional activities such as hunting; parents were able to enter the workforce and contribute to family income; and teenage parents were given an opportunity to finish their studies.

Some of the significant influences of the Saqliavik Childcare Centre relate to nutrition. Anaemia was a major concern in the community and some residents received training to help correct the situation. Whether because of a poor diet or lack of access to healthy foods, children who attended Saqliavik Childcare Centre were able to avoid these problems. Children were fed three times a day and each meal had an appropriate serving from the different main food groups. Although many community members and health care professionals are convinced that this careful attention to nutrition has paid dividends, research is now being carried out to prove the point.

A second very positive consequence resulting from the creation of the Saqliavik Childcare Centre is also sometimes mentioned. Specifically, some parents were enabled to keep their children at home in the community. Before the establishment of the childcare centre, some parents had been forced to send their children to relatives in neighbouring communities since they could not afford to feed their children. However, with affordable childcare offered in the community, it became possible for these families to remain together.

The Saqliavik Childcare Centre also helps prepare young children for school. It gives them a chance to get used to routines, prepares them for a structured learning environment, and advances their interpersonal relationship skills to a slightly higher level than children who go straight from home to kindergarten.

Saqliavik and Inuit Culture

It is important to note that the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) has been a driving force behind the development of the Saqliavik Childcare Centre. The laws and regulations that had to be followed were not necessarily fully understood by residents. Notwithstanding, the KRG has always encouraged each childcare centre in the region to develop and operate according to local objectives and, in this respect, the KRG has always strongly encouraged childcare centres to incorporate Inuit tradition and culture in the services delivered. At the Saqliavik Childcare Centre this has been accomplished through frequent country food meals, traditional clothing toys for children, as well as dancing and throat singing.

Kuujjuaraapik was lucky to have Louisa Fleming, as well as Louisa Cookie-Brown who regularly visited the Saqliavik Childcare Centre to share traditional stories with the children and educators. In fact, all elders and parents were constantly encouraged by Louisa Fleming to get involved in the childcare centre.

Saqliavik and the Future

In the winter of 2011, most of the childcare staff at Saqliavik Childcare Centre were receiving early childhood education training, again delivered by the Cégep Saint-Félicien. This training for a new generation of educators should inspire positive activities that will help young children in the early and important stages of their intellectual development.