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The Carmelite Day Nursery in downtown Toronto, in operation for more that 100 years, will cease operation in July. Photo from Google Maps

Century-old Carmelite daycare to shut down

  • February 3, 2024

It’s the end of an era in the Trinity-Bellwoods area of downtown Toronto, with the century-old child-care hub Carmelite Day Nursery announcing its plans to wind down operations by the end of July.

A statement on the Carmelites’ website reads: “After careful consideration, prayer and reflection, the board of directors of the Carmelite Day Nursery of Toronto has made the painful but necessary decision to wind down operations of both sites.” 

The not-for-profit child-care organization operated by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus has been providing community-centric child-care options since 1920. The centre prides itself on being an inviting, Christian, home-like atmosphere the Sisters say calls the children to “an awareness of the love that God has for each of us.”

According to the statement, the Sisters say they have reached a point where it’s time for this chapter of service to come to an end. 

The impending closure is a reflection of an ongoing issue for parents in Toronto: a lack of affordable daycare spaces. Now, caregivers of nearly 200 children will have a little over half a year to find a space among increasingly scarce options.

“Simply put, this couldn’t come at a worse time for child care,” said Donna Spreitzer, executive director of the Toronto Community for Better Child Care. “Those parents are in a real hard position because there is not a place in Toronto where you can build or license a spot between now and September. For non-profit organizations, it’s just not possible.”

The Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care system — the federal government program aiming to offer $10-a-day daycare — is being offered at the centre. Still, many families that send their children to the Carmelite Day Nursery are subsidy recipients, making the prospect of finding an affordable centre a near impossible task. 

“What we are looking at is 105 families, of which a fairly significant portion are subsidy recipients, that will no longer be able to find child care in that neighbourhood where there really isn’t anything else,” said Kevin Morrison, the local Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee.

Morrison said institutions like the YMCA indicate they are running at a deficit and are unable to continue to support programs in their current form. Paired with increased waitlists, a lack of available locations and the absence of infant care programs (of which the Carmelite Day Nursery was a provider), Toronto child-care space is approaching a crisis. 

It’s not exactly a new problem, said Morrison, who speaks from experience. 

“My oldest daughter is 20 years of age and when I went to look for child care for her when she was about 18 months old, there wasn’t any, and nothing has changed in decades,” the trustee said. 

Both Morrison and Spreitzer echoed the outpouring of sympathy towards the Carmelite Sisters and their decision to suspend operations, saying that after more than 100 years of service, there is only so much you can hope for. 

“I get it, it’s not their fault. They can’t continue to operate this business,” Spreitzer said. 

“Maybe we should all be looking at what they’ve done there because not only is it successful, not only is it big, not only does it provide amazing services for 100 years, but it is also very much loved,” Morrison said. “You cannot say enough amazing things about the Carmelite Sisters and all that they’ve done, they are angels on Earth.”

Going forward, Morrison will work to lessen the blow, including trying to open more spots at nearby Pope Francis Catholic School’s before- and after-school program. Morrison said finding a solution is the right thing to do for the affected families. 

“We haven’t gotten to the point where it’s become hopeless. I’m still going at it from a very positive mindset that we can work as hard as we can to make this not a big problem anymore and even maybe make it go away.” 

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