Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence




"You ask me why I do not tell you who I am? It's because

if I do, and you laugh at me . . . I'm all I've got left!

(from a 1997 colloquium in the Canadian Parliament Buildings on

Peace and Understanding, at which the Chair of

HOME CHILDREN CANADA was an invited participant.)


1. It is indeed true that the certainties of yesterday are all too often the headaches of today. From the 1880s—if not before—to 1945 the pseudo-science of eugenics played major role in stigmatizing children who were shipped out of Britain and in stultifying the growth of their own legitimate self-worth and esteem. (cf OUR OWN MASTER RACE by Angus MacLaren). Consider that the youngsters were commonly called "Street Arabs, "urchins", "Waifs and Strays". This latter name was the unfortunate title chosen by Church of England authorities for their commendable organisation. The name was changed to The Children's Society only in 1945."Tell me little girl: Are you a Waif or a Stray?"Even "Home Child" was derogatory. (cf ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maude Montgomery)

2. In Britain, Churchill, HG Wells and GB Shaw were said to be eugenicists. In Canada, WS Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas (Fathers of Canadian Medicare) and Charlotte Whitton were believers. So, ultimately was Hitler. Hitler and Whitton, did not outgrow the fad; the others presumably did.

3. Canada, the USA, France and the northern countries of Europe are only now coming to terms with the sterilization programs that ensued from the belief in eugenics. No country has yet officially admitted that exporting children from the "mother country" and treating them badly in the colonies were also effects.

4. "The pseudo-science of "eugenics"—that morality, criminality, mental and physical defects could lead to race degeneracy supported Whittons's stance . . . she connected moral deficiency with immigration . . . Whitton connected immigration, domestic service and mental deficiency". (From No Bleeding Heart by Rooke & Schnell) (Whitton was the first female mayor of a large city in Canada—Ottawa—and a social worker (?) closely connected at one time with the League of Nations and global projects involving Children.)

5. In her efforts to keep Canadian-British blood lines pure, Whitton and others so stigmatized Home Children that to this day many of them will not talk of their past. This perhaps, is the greatest Child migration sin of all.

6. BARNARDOS RECOGNIZES THE DEPTH OF THE HURT IN HOME CHILDREN AND ITS RESIDUAL EFFECTS ON DESCENDANTS. Please consult Collette Bradford, Head of After Care at Barnardos. She has accepted our invitation to visit Canada and meet Home Children from all agencies. As a result we have been included on the Barnardo Team and will be again in September 1998 at Toronto, Peterborough and elsewhere when we meet with Home Children and their descendants at what are essentially healing ceremonies.

8. We chose at this time to refer you to two letters (Addendum B) that perhaps best explain the effects of Child Migration and the stigma associated with it.WE DEEM THE FOLLOWING TEXTS SIGNIFICANT.

The extracts are from letters of greeting sent to our Reunions by dignitaries who, in recognizing the contribution made to Canada by Home Children, are helping to replace an unjust stigma with pride.

1. Governor General Ray HnatyshynAs Governor General of Canada, I am honoured to extend my warmest greetings to all attending the national reunion of the "Home Children". Of the many stories which newcomers to Canada have to tell, there are few more heart rending than those that are told by the "Home Children". Removed from their homes in England, frequently against their will or as "orphans", these children arrived in Canada without their families and, indeed, without their history. These young pioneers were sent to farms throughout Canada and courageously began to build new lives, make new friends and to discover new dreams.Despite their often tragic circumstances, the "Home Children" grew into proud and productive Canadians. Their contributions to our society and the strength of their spirit are a unique part of our Canadian heritage. I have no doubt that, as we learn more about their history and their accomplishments, the "Home Children" can become an inspiration for many Canadians seeking a better world for themselves and their communities.

On behalf of all Canadians and as Her Majesty's representative in Canada, I send my best wishes to the participants in the national reunion of the "Home Children" as they gather to share their stories and successes with people who have lived through similar experiences.

2. Prime Minister Jean Chretien (from a personal letter to each Home Child attending an Ottawa Reunion)I am delighted to convey my warmest greetings to everyone attending the 4th Annual Home Child Reunion. This event provides you with a special opportunity to reflect upon your life in Canada and share your experiences. It also allows us to salute you for your many contributions to the development of this nation. Your pioneering and brave spirit enabled you to overcome adversity and to meet challenges with perseverance and vigour. I am pleased to join with those who gratefully acknowledge the important role you have played in the growth and prosperity of our country.

3. Prayer of Archbishop Gervais of OttawaOur Father, whose Son told us "to suffer the little children to come unto us", bless all the Home Children who came to our shores, who were so often alone and helpless. We pray for their children and their children's children. And we dedicate this memorial to them today we ask forgiveness of them and of you Father for any pain they suffered. We pray for any who may have been the cause of their pain, and that altogether, we may praise you and one day be with you. We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.

4. Prime Minister Jean ChretienThis year your discussions will include a celebration of Canada's Home Children, whose many contributions are worthy of recognition and admiration. Though the path they were given to follow was often difficult, they persevered and overcame the obstacles placed before them to become valuable citizens with families of their own. I join with you in applauding their spirit and their commitment to life.

5. Ms. Sheila Copps, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian HeritageThe immigration of 100,000 home children which occurred over close to 70 years is an important period in our past. The conditions of life and the way of thinking of that period wounded, often profoundly, the children who were almost abandoned to their fate . . . We can express our complete admiration for the strength of will, the stamina and the endurance that make the home children outstanding Canadians.

6. Prime Minister Jean ChretienOur past holds the seeds of our future, and it is appropriate that the contributions of those who helped shape the unique character of our country should be recognized. As you gather to celebrate the history that binds you to one another, I know that you will look back upon the remarkable lives of the Home Children with pride and a sense of achievement.

WORDING OF ONTARIO'S FIRST HISTORICAL PLAQUE TO COMMEMORATE HOME CHILDREN erected in Renfrew in 1994 by Home Children, their families, friends, Heritage Renfrew and the Ontario Heritage Foundation


From 1869 until the Great Depression England exported about 100,000 children to Canada as cheap farm labourers. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, came to the Ottawa Valley. Not all were orphans; some were sent over without the knowledge or permission of their parents; others were sponsored by benefactors who saw greater hope for them in this land of plenty. Virtually all were poor. Most were between seven and 14 years of age, but some were mere toddlers. Each child was supposed to get room, board, token pay and some education. Many received no wages, no schooling, and much abuse. To their credit most "Home Children" overcame privation, loneliness and prejudice to become productive and proud Canadians. Their descendants and the citizens of Renfrew honoured them and celebrated their contribution to this country at the first Reunion for Home Children, in Renfrew in 1991.

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Prepared 10 August 1998