Early Learning and Child Care


First Nations have an inherent and sacred responsibility to care and educate their children. As such, the AFN is active in advocating for increased resources and flexibility for First Nations Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC).

ELCC for First Nations in their communities and in urban areas is delivered by way of four key initiatives:

  • First Nations Inuit Child Care Initiative (FNICCI)
  • Aboriginal Head Start Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC)
  • Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve (AHSOR)
  • Federally-funded daycare centres in certain provinces

Other aspects of early childhood development programming for First Nations children and families include:

  • Brighter Futures
  • Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program – First Nations and Inuit Component (CPNP)
  • Children’s Oral Health Initiative (COHI)
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Initiative – First Nations and Inuit Component
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Community Action Program for Children (CAPC)

The landscape of ELCC for First Nations is vastly different across the country. The current work of the AFN in supporting the First Nations National Expert Working Group on Early Learning and Child Care has aimed to understand regional differences in ELCC delivery and structure, and to understand how First Nations want to be supported for the best ELCC outcomes of their children.

Learn more about what the AFN is doing on ELCC and the transformation underway here.



First Nations National Expert Working Group on Early Learning and Child Care

At the 2016 AFN Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Chiefs-in-Assembly passed AFN Resolution 39/2016 which directed the AFN to obtain funding to establish a national expert working group on ELCC which would oversee a 4-6 month community engagement process. This process would support the identification and confirmation of key principles, priorities, and actions of a First Nations ELCC framework along with an action plan that takes into account regional priorities, needs, and circumstances. Through the AFN Social Development Sector and the AFN Regional Offices, representatives for the National Expert Working Group on ELCC have been identified and the group has met regularly throughout 2017 and 2018. The working group has completed a draft regional engagement report and First Nations ELCC Framework report based on the regional engagements. These reports have supported the development of the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)-led effort to establish a National Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care (IELCC) Framework.

The National IELCC Framework was released on September 17, 2018. The National IELCC Framework takes a distinctions-based approach to ELCC, and provides a flexible guide for communities, service providers, policy-makers and governments to use to design and implement their own ELCC programming.

Federal Commitments

In their 2016 mandate letter, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development was mandated to “work with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to launch consultations with provinces and territories and Indigenous peoples on a National Early Learning and Child Care Framework as a first step towards delivering affordable, high-quality, flexible and fully inclusive child care.

Budget 2018: $360 million over three years to support the co-development of an Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework

Budget 2017: $7 billion over 10 years for Early Learning and Child Care, of which $130 million is targeted for Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care, starting in 2018-19

Budget 2016: $100 million for Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care on-reserve, and $29.4 million in 2016-17 for renovation and repair of on-reserve facilities used for the Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve Program and the First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative

At the release of the National IELCC Framework, Minister Duclos committed $1.7 billion over 10 years (as part of Budget 2017 commitments) to Indigenous ELCC. Of this, $1.02 billion over 10 years was specifically committed to First Nations ELCC.

Contact Social Development Staff

Jonathan Thompson

Ashley Bach
Policy Analyst

Jessica Quinn
Policy Analyst

Lorna Martin
Administrative Assistant

Martin Orr
Senior Policy Analyst

Pamela Corkum
Administrative Assistant

Stephanie Wellman
Associate Director

Sid LeeEarly Learning and Child Care