Concordia to Repossess Downtown Daycare

Parents and Community Fighting for a Solution

Concordia repossesses daycare, leaving parents to scramble for caretakers. Photo Autumn Darey

On a cold November morning, parents helped their smiling children up the steps inside the Centre de la petite enfance (Early Childhood Centre) Concordia, located inside the Grey Nuns building.

The children were excited to be back at their daycare, unaware of the stress weighing on their parents' shoulders.

The daycare and board of directors, which is made up of parents of current and former daycare attendees, received a letter on Oct. 19 about the space being repossessed. Other parents were told during the annual general assembly on Nov. 10. 

A repossession is different from an eviction because it infers personal use of a property, meaning it will not be used for another business. Repossession of a property can be done with a notice to the lease of at least six-month. 

The announcement came as a shock. Parents and directors thought they were still in conversation with Concordia about finding a new location. The loss of the daycare would leave 80 children without care, and many parents without essential support to continue their work at Concordia.

The CPE Concordia, which occupied the premises of the Masonic Temple since 1973 and moved to the Grey Nuns building in 2008, was the only downtown childcare centre for Concordia employees until 2019, when the Concordia Student Union opened their centre. The CSU, however, prioritises undergraduate students. During its 43 years in operation, the daycare has nurtured hundreds of children.

The Link spoke to a group of six parents trying to find a solution before the repossession on July 1, 2023. They believe that a seven-month timeline to find a new location up to government standards, along with renovations, is a nearly impossible task.

The parents explained they had to wait to get into the daycare for anywhere from two to three years.

Max Bergholz, parent and associate professor in the history department, said that Concordia has used the availability of childcare, which McGill, Université de Québec and Université de Montréal all have, to attract people to work at the university.

“The daycare is able to prioritise staff, who can ask for daycare positions when negotiating,” Bergholz explained, saying that some parents negotiate a daycare spot for their children as part of joining Concordia. He added that Concordia is “against its own best interest” to lose such an important resource to bring people to the university.

As of publication, Concordia still lists the downtown CPE on its list of childcare centres, along with the Loyola CPE—which can accommodate up to 14 children—and the CSU daycare.

When reached for comment about the closure, Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said that that portion of the building “is needed for academic activities originally planned for that space.”

Maestracci also said that Concordia has been “communicating with the CPE for a year concerning this project” and that while they looked at various options, “none were feasible[.]”

When asked about the feasibility of other options, Bergholz said that Concordia’s ‘non-feasibility’ reply makes it seem like the CPE “was aware that this decision was going to be made” and that the director of the CPE and the board of directors agreed to it. He and the other parents stated they did not.

According to a document provided to The Link by the board of directors at the CPE, the daycare receives 1 million dollars annually from the provincial government. Concordia provides an additional $50,000 and has since the mid-2000s, as well as the space in the Grey Nuns building.

Since the story broke, various people both at Concordia and outside of it have been voicing support for the parents and the CPE. Pamela Carson started a petition which has received over a thousand signatures since it was launched late last week.

Maestracci’s email ended in saying that the university regrets that there are “no other possibilities to keep the daycare within Concordia premises given the limited and suitable space we have in our downtown campus.”

The Link has also learned that the daycare at Loyola, CPE Les Petits Profs, was renovated between May and October 2021. Concordia was able to relocate the daycare for renovations by placing the children into the Jesuit Conference Hall, and “divided the larger spaces into smaller areas using partitions and then fenced off an area outside as a temporary play space.”

“What kind of values is Concordia upholding right now?” — Varda Nisar

“If they have been trying to promote their image as very inclusive and everything, [the closure] really attacks some of the most marginalised people,” said Varda Nisar, a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia and public scholar.  

She added that those with kids have a lot of responsibilities and parents have survived the last two years without much support as their kids stayed home due to COVID-19. 

When The Link reached out to the Equity office, we were referred to Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci. 

While the director and staff of the daycare did not comment publicly, the parents stressed how important they are to them and their kids. The staff greeted the children at the door starting in May 2020 when they first returned after provincial lockdowns ended. They helped the kids unbundle during the winter and then dressed them back up when they went outside for activities and to go home.

Arwa Hussain, a public scholar and Concordia Ph.D. candidate, recalled how her son, when upset, cried for one of his favourite daycare staff members, Deborah. 

Varda Nisar said that for those who moved to Canada and do not have family here, the staff are integral. “They are the only people who know my kid more than me, who know [...] exactly what she likes, how she sleeps, how she eats. My mother doesn't know my kid more than them.”

The parents hope they will be able to find an alternate location for the CPE. Knowing their children are cared for would allow those who teach at Concordia to continue the work they came to the university to do.

This article has been updated to correct an error regarding the former location of CPE Concordia. The Link regrets this error.

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 7, published November 22, 2022.