Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Motion No. 261. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has raised a very important challenge for this country.
I am speaking from experience in terms of my being in the educational system and in the administration of a school district for the last 12 years. I have also seen the beginning of the aboriginal head start program in my community.
The member proposes that the first eight years of life are crucial for child development. I remind the House and fellow citizens of Canada that children in aboriginal communities were affected by the residential school system policy, much to the detriment of the parenting process in those communities. I must caution that we do not try to institutionalize our children at a very young age. We must not abandon the family structure of our people. All Canadians want to live in a family environment.
Head start is crucial if the family environment is not intact. If the parents are not able to provide the academic, social, economic and emotional support, then the head start program plays an important role. The head start program is the community taking the leadership in an extended family role.
The community base is crucial. The aboriginal head start program made that a major priority. Community groups had to be involved in the development of head start. The other aspect is the educational systems in Canada.
Why could the schools not administer the head start program so that an additional administrative structure is not created? We do not need to duplicate administration. We want to create programs and services for children and their families, not to spend money on administration. We should allow the school systems to administer the program as is done in the province of Quebec.
The head start program will require curriculum development. An integral part of the aboriginal head start program is language development. Neheyo-watsin, in my language, we cannot lose the aboriginal languages of this country's aboriginal peoples. This is the homeland of that language. If head start imposes English or French as opposed to the community's first language, it is a detriment and takes us back to institutionalization and residential school policies. That is not the intention of the community aboriginal head start programs.
The communities want to keep their languages first. If children can keep the first language intact until the age of eight years, then they can pick up a second, third or fourth language with greater ease. However, their first language must be developed first.
While the motion mentions provincial and federal partnership, it begs to include community partnership in this development. It mentions hospitals and schools. In educational and community development, schools play a more integral part than do hospitals. There is more readiness of schools than hospitals in our communities.
Transporting a child of three, four or five years of age across the community to another city or town to attend head start programs or receive services is a little out of vision. Many of the head start outreach programs are at the home base. This allows the development of children at home by the parents with support services from the head start program. Keeping a family together is very important.
I have another example concerning crime. Reform members have taken this as the flagship of reducing crime. There is a statistic which astounded me. On a tour of the Saskatchewan penitentiary during the royal commission hearings the commissioners heard many briefs given by inmates. At the end of the day the co-chair, Mr. Erasmus, asked the attending inmates how many of them had come through the foster home program. Eighty per cent of the inmates in that room had come through the foster home program. This points to the family structure.
If immediate families cannot carry the burden of raising a child, the extended families must immediately be put into place. The community must be given the authority and the means to provide that child support in the child's immediate surroundings. By displacing children elsewhere in the province or in the country is not to their betterment. We must keep the families as close as possible within their immediate areas. This is a concern I have with the head start program as well.
In my community I have seen the evolution of urbanization. Because of low incomes and social housing, families are forced to stay in a community with water and sewer systems. Traditionally however, they lived along the rivers and lakes which is where the clans raised and supported each other. Now, because of the way neighbourhoods are designed, a sister could be living across town and an uncle could be living on the other side of town, leaving no family support system in the community structure.
There is also an evolution on the family farms. They have been hit hard by declining incomes. The spouses must rely on a second source of income which will take members away from the family. The federal and provincial governments should support the family as much as possible. Farmers provide for the wealth of the agricultural community. They provide food for this nation and for the world. The fishermen who provide the food do not diminish their responsibility or their role in this country. Keep their families intact. Do not compromise them by creating programs that keep parenting away from their responsibilities. My message is to keep the families intact.