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Bradford Times March 2017

Long-overdue apology to British Home Children

Ottawa – It was a moment long-awaited by British Home Children and their descendants.

On February 16, the Canadian House of Commons passed a motion, formally apologizing to the children uprooted through the long-standing migration program.

From 1869 to the end of the 1940s, 55 agencies in Great Britain sent more than 100,000 children to Canada, to work as indentured farm workers and domestics. Uprooted from their mother country, separated from surviving family members, most of the children were used as a supply of cheap labour – and many suffered abuse, stigma and neglect.

Luc Theriault, Bloc Quebecois MP for Montcalm, PQ put forward the motion, “That the House recognize the injustice, abuse and suffering endured by the British Home Children as well as the efforts, participation and contribution of these children and their descendants within our communities; and offer its sincere apology to the British Home Children who are still living and to the descendants of these 100,000 individuals who were shipped from Great Britain to Canada between 1869 and 1948, and torn from their families to serve mainly as cheap labour once they arrived in Canada.”

Theriault was supported by MPs Judy Sgro (Humber River-Black Creek; Liberal), Mark Strahl (Chilliwack-Hope; Conservative), Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East; NDP) and Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands; Green).

In Canada, British Home Children and their descendants are estimated to make up 10 to 12% of the population, or nearly 4 million Canadians. Among the children sent to Quebec was John James Rowley – father of Hélène Rowley, who married Jean Duceppe and had 7 children, including Gilles Duceppe, former Bloc Quebecois leader and MP.

“I am very happy that all the parties have joined together today to apologize, as did Australia and the United Kingdom, to the British Home Children,” Duceppe said following the announcement.

Australia issued its apology in 2009, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke of “the tragedy, the absolute tragedy of childhoods lost.” The UK apologized on behalf of the British government in 2010. In Canada, the government declined to respond to calls for an apology – until now.

Advocates are delighted with the news.  Sandra Joyce, co-founder of British Home Child Group International  (britishhomechild.com) and a British Home Child descendant, called it “truly an exciting moment for the British Home Children still with us and their descendants… Their stories, largely unknown until now because of the stigma they faced in Canada, are part of the diverse tapestry that makes up our great nation.” She expressed a hope that the acknowledgement will lead to “more reunions of families torn apart by this child migrant scheme.”

The Elman W. Campbell Museum presents an exhibit on British Home Children at the Old Town Hall in Newmarket, 460 Botsford St., from April 1 to 15. Personal memorabilia, such as trunks, photos, postcards and medals, will form a significant portion of this exhibit. A presentation on April 1 at noon will feature the film “Lost and Found,” and an account of a Newmarket-area family that hosted Home Children. The film will be followed by the unveiling of a Sesquicentennial  Canadian Memorial British Home Child Quilt, at 2 p.m., and a panel discussion.

The exhibit, created by the British Home Child Group International, will be open from noon to 8 p.m., and features the Phyl Wright, Karen Mahoney and Sandra Joyce Collections. BHCGI is dedicated to raising awareness, reuniting families separated by the Child Migrant scheme, and providing free genealogical research to descendants. For more information, contact the Elman W. Campbell Museum at 905-953-5314.


5 thoughts on “Bradford Times March 2017

  1. The apology brings me great joy. I appreciate the work of so many people over the past years who have kept the memory of these children alive.
    Now I wish each province would apologize to BHC and all foster children who were sent to work on farms. These children missed out on education opportunities and love of a family.

  2. I am very glad that the government has made an official apology to the British Home Children and would like to thank Luc Theriault, MP for leading the way on this long overdue recognition. My father and uncle came from Scotland as part of a shipment of Home Children on a ship chartered by Barnardo Homes and worked on farms in the Hillsburg, Ontario area for fifteen years before they (and their friends who also debarked from Greenock on the ship bound for the Port of Quebec) volunteered and served with the Canadian military all through WWII, returning back to work and farm at the end of the war.
    However, as our family and many others have lost citizenship because we are told our fathers could never have been Canadian citizens, I believe that an apology is not quite enough. The British Home Children were an important part in the building of this country as we know it, they worked hard and many suffered abuse and loss. According to present interpretation of history by the government, there were no Canadians before 1947 so all those Home Children and veterans of the wars are regarding as just having been British subjects. My brother and I had our citizenship taken in 2004. Every time we have tried to get it back, we are told we did not have a Canadian parent (my mother was a War Bride) because my father could not have been a Canadian. Surely the government should change this, and ensure that the Home Children are proudly claimed by Canada as having been Canadian Citizens.

  3. My grandmother, Annie Hicks, came to Canada from Manchester in 1895 with her older brother. She was placed with the Van Horne family in Ontario. My mother always said she had little good to say about them. She left there at age 16 and eventually met my grandfather and they homesteaded in Alberta. She died in 1925 from diabetes having lost 7 of 8 children. My mother was only survivor. Her brother was returned to England due to bad behaviour and we cannot find record of him.

  4. I understand where the apology is coming from but there are always two sides to every story. My maternal grandmother and two great uncles were sent from England around 1905. My grandmother went to Montreal as a maid and my great uncles to farms in the Dutton area of Ontario. Life was not easy but considering the living conditions in London it was much better. My uncles were found living outdoors in a hollowed out ditch with my great grandfather, by the police on patrol. The family had previously split apart and life was not easy in the slum where they lived. Eventually they could not even afford to live in this hovel as my great grandfather became ill and could not work. I would not be here today had she not been sent to Canada.

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