Lucie Bergeron is a child and family advisor for the C.R.A. Bergeron has been instrumental in introducing professional childcare in Eeyou Istchee, which will complete its 10-year development plan in the coming year.

Bergeron was involved in helping to build childcare centres in all the Cree Communities, including the first centre in Chisasibi, where she lived for 3 years. Her role at the C.R.A. is to find funding at the federal government and distribute the money.

The first phase of development was in 1995-1998 when funding for regional child and family services was obtained. By 1999 there was a childcare centre in all the Cree communities. They are now in the second phase of development.

“I’m really proud to see the progress and it’s all done by Cree woman,” said Bergeron. “The staff in the childcare centres is 99 per cent Cree and they’re speaking in their own native language. It’s really good to see that and they manage a lot of money.”

Each of the centres is a non-profit corporation. Mistissini will have three buildings with 80 children each. Waskaganish and Waswanipi will have two buildings housing 80 children each. All the other communities will have one building with 80 spaces for children. The goal of the development plan will finish in 2005.

Health Canada founded a new program called Head Start, which provides services to newborns and toddlers up to four years old. Head start is also for children who don’t attend daycare; educators are hired to visit the children and their parents to do activities with them at their homes. So when the children are ready to start school they’ll all be at the same developmental level. It’s not just babysitting; it’s now becoming a real education in the childcare centres.

Caroline Jimiken is one of the childcare workers in Mistissini. Jimiken said many people think childcare centres are just for babysitting.

“But in reality it’s not like that at all,” she asserted. “They have a lot of outings, the activities are all educational. There are daily routines of activities that take place in childcare centres. We also work in collaboration with both the Cree School Board and the Cree Health Board. The Cegep St. Felicien provides the training for the educators and to make sure they do their jobs efficiently and to have a better understanding of the children’s development. It’s like a head start to enter the school environment and the kids will know what to do once they attend school.”