Facilitator: Michael Goldberg, Research Director, Social Planning and Research Council of BC
Sharon Chisholm, Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association
Martha Friendly, Coordinator of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto
Lois Yelland, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver – Richmond Health Board
Universal standards and the question of pluralism was at the top of the discussion during the afternoon discussion of community services and their relation to social inclusion.
Facilitator Michael Goldberg asked how social inclusion would help create universal standards, and also how it might make decisions on policy choices easier. Clearly, though, people wanted to take a step back. “I would argue that the first question should be what policy changes need to be made,” said Martha Friendly. “What are the core things that all people need, and are we allocating sufficient resources to them?”
Nordic countries, and some in Western Europe, have more homogenous populations, so implementing, for example, guaranteed income supplements appears to be easier. Others disagreed, and as one woman put it “We are caught in a schizophrenic political and geographical area where we want a U.S.-style tax policy and European-style social programs.” Friendly followed up with the notion that it is not Canada’s pluralistic society that is the stumbling block, but “our frozen social policy.”
Social inclusion was viewed by some as more of a “back door” method to create discussion on universality. “Canadians don’t want to talk about universal programs, with the exception of health care,” said one woman. “We can use social inclusion to raise the discussion of civic participation and that will lead us back to universality.”
The need for universal programs focused on children’s needs, and in particular, early childhood education: from adequate housing, to open and inviting play spaces, resources and support for parents, to caregivers who are sufficiently trained, and centres that have the financial resources to provide services to the most needy children in society.
“All children have the right to a fair chance,” said Lois Yelland, noting that there are only three words to describe her work with First Call, a B.C.-based early childhood program: Relationship, relationship, relationship.
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