A guide for parents in Canada

Do you live in a rural, remote or northern community?

Many parents know that regulated child care is especially hard to find in rural, remote and northern communities. These are likely to have low population density, large geographic distances and many parents working non-standard schedules.

Until 2021, Canadian governments at all levels have mostly taken a hands-off approach to ensuring that child care services are available in all communities. As a result, setting up and maintaining child care in rural and remote communities has been largely unsustainable and regulated services have been limited. 

Today the child care situation is undergoing significant changes, as the federal government and provinces/territories have committed to the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) plan to make child care affordable, accessible, high quality, inclusive and flexible. See Who's responsible? for details of policy changes in process.

But although provinces and territories have committed to improve the availability of regulated child care in all communities, regulated child care options remain very limited in many communities in all regions of Canada.

A report titled Child care can't wait till the cows come home: rural child care in the Canadian context  provides an overview of the state of rural child care across Canada. (Executive summary is available in EN and FR).

The report Child care can't wait til the cows come home: rural child care in the Canadian context found that the following affect child care provision in rural and remote areas:

  • Large geographic distances make it difficult for parents to access child care and for providers to serve spread-out populations.
  • Many rural families work seasonally – long hours for part of the year and then minimal or irregular hours for other parts of the year.
  • In farm families, one parent may be working off the farm.
  • Child safety issues on farms and other rural workplaces make the lack of child care a pressing concern.
  • Finding and retaining qualified staff is significantly harder in rural, remote and northern areas due to low wages and limited career options.
  • Some provincial/ territorial governments and employers have experimented with options or special funding for models of regulated child care suited to the needs of families living in rural communities but too often, these were not sustained.
two toddlers playing

Options for parents in rural, remote or northern communities

  • Although regulated child care is more limited in rural communities, it is not nonexistent. Parents in rural communities should be aware that some regulated child care may be available, so it’s important to check out your specific province/territory and local community using the child care search tools in each provincial/territorial section of this website.
  • As the child care situation is in the process of changing Canada-wide, parents living in rural and remote communities should connect with child care groups in their area or province/territory to make sure the needs of their community are not left out.  See the How to get involved in the child care community section of this website for contact information.