British Prime Minister apologizes for "home children" - Canadian link

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture
British Prime Minister apologizes for "home children" - Canadian link

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized Wednesday for a government program instituted in the 19th century that sent poor children from London's slums overseas to do hard labour in British colonies, including Canada.


CBC story


What I found astonishing was that the CBC reporter on the TV story mentioned that something like 10% of the current population of Canada are descended from these children.

Sorry, no link. But a confirmation/refutation of that point would be helpful.


That percentage sounds very high to me too, but then I'm surprised at the total estimate of 100,000. I knew about the home children, but I didn't realize there were so many. I'm sure there are many people who don't know that they have a home-child ancestor, given how far back the program went and how sketchy many people's knowledge of their families is more than a generation or so back. There have been good academic studies done of the program -- maybe someone here will know how to read those estimates.


The Canadian Centre for Home Children gives the number at 14%


What a great source -- thanks, Caissa.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

It's estimated that 10% of Canadians are descended from BHCs.  I am a BHC descendant.  My grandfather was shipped here against his will in 1923 at the age of 14, sent to a farm near Ottawa and was treated like an animal - beaten, kept in the barn, fed scraps like a dog.  How he grew into the smart, well-read and kind man that I knew and loved is nothing short of miraculous.

The reason 10% is an estimate is that among BHCs, there was a code of silence.  These kids were spit on, regarded as the lowest of the low.  If they were able to, they hid their origins.  They were ashamed.  I didn't find out about my grandfather's experience until 1984 - and only then because his brother had found the means to come to Canada to be reunited with him after more than 60 years of seperation and he knew he couldn't hide it from us.  He never saw his mother and sister again.

Some more fun facts:  Over 100,000 kids were sent to Canada.  Most were not, as the spin was put on it, orphans.  A few were placed in genuine adoption or apprenticeship situations, but it's estimated 75% were emotionally, physically and sometimes sexually abused.  The Canadian government, through the Department of Agriculture, paid "sending" organizations like Barnardo's Homes approximately $2.00 a head for these kids, who did not have the right to leave their indentures.  There was little to no inspection of placements.  I talked to a man who was a BHC who told me the inspector told him to hold his cap over the ragged holes in the clothing he was given for the photograph they took for the records. 

I could go on, but I'm so angry my hands are shaking.  Here's a youtube clip of Brown's apology.  Pity our own PM is too cowardly to step up and apologize for our part in this.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Cheap/child labour and indentured servitude, yup. That's the lovely origin of capitalism in this country (as seen, not from the entrepreneur's point of view but,  from the point of view of those who did the actual work).

By the way, H. Clare Pentland, a Canadian historian from Manitoba, wrote a famous book, "Labour and Capital in Canada: 1600-1850", (or something like that for a title) in which he covered indentured servitude rather well and discussed the issue of why slavery was not introduced in Canada as it was in the southern US states. And, importantly, Pentland wrote this when orthodox social science was affected by McCarthyism and the Cold War and did not, as a rule, touch social class and it's study to any degree at all. A brave and underappreciated academic - although Cy Gonick of Canadian Dimension  wrote about Pentland I think.

Yes, thanks muchly, Caissa.


Did you see Kenney's statement? "Not on the radar" indeed. And that's a man who calls other cultures "barbaric."


I guess some of us are going to have to put it on his radar ...

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

You know the reparation fund at Heritage?  They've paid out to compensate the Japanese, Chinese and Ukrainians who were discriminated against and whose human rights were violated  - not just as individuals, but to create museums and other living memory projects.  The BHC don't qualify - because they're of British extraction they aren't an identifiable group.

Nice, eh? 


"There is a happy land, far, far away
Where they eat bread and jam three times a day
O how we sweetly sing, dancing round the gravy ring
O how wed love to be far, far away." -- Orphans Song

"Bread and jam three times a day",  oh aye!