When my infant daughter was rushed to hospital with a respiratory problem, the ambulance attendants would not let my son come with us, and the transition house staff told me that I could not leave my son there. In that moment, I wondered whether it would have been better to stay with my physically abusive husband because at least I could have left my son with him. I ended up asking a woman I barely knew to take care of my son while I stayed with my daughter in the hospital.

This is just one small part of Mariana’s story about how the struggle to access child care has impacted her life and the lives of her children. And Mariana is not alone. The current state of child care services in BC is failing women and children, with serious repercussions for their human rights and for women’s equality more broadly.

That’s why we embarked on our Right to Child Care law reform project, which has culminated in a report released today: High Stakes: The impacts of child care on the human rights of women and children.

The report calls on BC to take immediate steps to adopt and implement the $10aDay Plan to make child care significantly more affordable for all, ensure free care for families with lower incomes, and ultimately improve access to high-quality care for every child in BC who needs it. It also recommends that the BC government to take urgent action to provide free child care immediately to those families with the greatest need.

At the heart of the High Stakes report are diverse women’s real-life stories, shared in the form of affidavits, about how the inadequacy of the child care system has impacted them and their children-undermining their safety, well-being, and human rights. The report analyzes the legal implications of these harms through the lenses of human rights, constitutional, and international law. It concludes that the current state of child care services in BC violates the human rights of women and children in complex and wide-ranging ways.

The lack of affordable, quality child care undermines women’s economic security, leaving them financially dependent and less able to escape abuse. It threatens to separate families, both by making it harder for mothers to obtain legal immigration status in Canada and by increasing the risk of apprehensions through the child protection system. And it jeopardizes the physical and mental health of women and children. We believe that BC has a responsibility to implement a coordinated, comprehensive solution to the inadequacies of the current child care system in order to end these human rights violations.

Ensuring our childcare system is safe and accessible is a significant undertaking, but it is achievable: a more equitable future is well within our reach.