Iris Evans, seen in April, said her remarks on Wednesday were not intended to offend parents with children in alternative care or daycare. (CBC)
Alberta's finance minister is apologizing to people who may have been offended by remarks she made in Toronto on Wednesday suggesting that in order to raise children "properly," one parent should stay at home while the other goes to work.
The comments were "certainly targeted at financial literacy and not at people who had to work out of the home and be away from the children. It wasn't. And if they inadvertently, or if the way it's been reported, offends somebody, I do apologize," Iris Evans told CBC News on Wednesday evening.
"But it was never with the intent to slam parenting as people do when they have children in alternative care or in daycare. It was an intent to point out the importance of the early years in teaching skills to children whether it's behavioural issues or financial literacy."
Evans was in Toronto speaking about Alberta's economy to the Economic Club of Canada. The remarks now at issue came in response to a question from the audience about teaching children financial literacy, Evans said.
'I understand no situation is the same and that parents have to make difficult choices that are in the best interests of their children, and I applaud them for making these choices.'—Iris Evans, Alberta finance minister
In response to the query, she spoke about the importance of teaching children about finances. She also said that good parenting means sacrificing income to stay at home while kids are young as her own children have done.
"They've understood perfectly well that when you're raising children, you don't both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise," Evans told the small crowd. "This is not a statement against daycare. It's a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly."
Evans declined all interview requests on Thursday, and issued a written statement to clarify her comments.
"Having worked for most of my adult life while raising kids, I understand no situation is the same and that parents have to make difficult choices that are in the best interests of their children, and I applaud them for making these choices," she said in the statement.
People with mental illness are also taking issue with other remarks Evans made on Wednesday that they say are helping fuel the stigma connected to their conditions.
During her speech, Evans also said a lack of education is ruining the upbringing of some children and leading to mental illness and crime.
Bart Collie, who lives at a Calgary halfway house for people switching from institutional care to independent living, said most of his neighbours in the house are well-educated.
"We have a fellow here named Bruce and he was a principal in a high school," said Collie, who suffers from disorganized schizophrenia. "We have another guy who taught English all over East Asia and we have others that have taught French and Spanish."
Evans's remarks are disappointing because the roots of mental illness are more complex than that, said Edmonton mental health advocate Austin Mardon.
"There are physiological and genetic and environmental — physical-environmental issues — related to mental illness," he said.
Mardon, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 16 years ago and earned a PhD afterward, is a member of the Order of Canada for his advocacy work on mental health issues.
Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann demanded an apology from Evans, calling her remarks "outrageous claims."
When asked to respond to his finance minister's comments, Premier Ed Stelmach, in Dawson City, Yukon, for the western premiers meeting, said: "We have a tremendous respect for working families — both parents working contributes greatly to the province of Alberta and to the country of Canada."
Parents at a northwest Calgary coffee shop, who were keeping an eye on their children in the play area, said they could see where Evans was coming from, but added they hoped she knows that some parents just can't afford to stay at home.
'The important thing is attachment. Every child needs to know that they're cared for, they're loved for and they have to have a sense of security.'—Cathie Pelly, parenting expert
"If you can stay at home with your children then you should really, but I also think she needs to see it from the other point of view that actually for a lot of parents it's just not an option," said Lauren Normanton.
Added Halley Prestage: "It might not have been the most politically correct statement and maybe if I was a two-income family, I might be somewhat offended."
But Prestage, who stays at home to take care of her four children, said sacrificing one income and making lifestyle choices such as driving instead of flying for vacations, is worth it for her family.
"I'm very happy that I'm able to stay at home and I may choose to work at a later date when they're all in school but for now, especially in the formative years, I like to be the one influencing them, you know my husband and I, in a way I see fit," she said.
Cathie Pelly, a parenting expert with Parents and Children Together in Calgary, said she doesn't think having one parent at home necessarily guarantees a nurturing upbringing.
"I think the important thing is attachment. Every child needs to know that they're cared for, they're loved for and they have to have a sense of security," she said.
"So if we've got them in a daycare and but there's no connection, then that's a problem. But it's also if they're at home and there's no real connection and there's resentment, then that's a problem.
"There is no one way to do it. There's loads of different ways to get to the end result, which is a happy, healthy child."With files from The Canadian Press
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
It is tragic that the minister is forced to "apologize", what the hell for?
Is it because some cant afford to be stay at home parents?
is it because her statements mentioned mental illness?
the minister is to be congratulated on bringing the issues of parenting
on to the table of public interest and it will serve all Canadian children well.
Perhaps the minister could now put her Pen where her Mouth is and
show support for a Legal Presumption of Equal Parenting and work towards cleaning up the male hating judiciary of this country.