Dozens of ‘British home children’ lie forgotten in Etobicoke cemetery

One of the less known parts of our history that I learned about when working on citizenship and multiculturalism issues:

Charles Bradbury was still a child when his throat was slit with a razor on Feb. 1, 1897. His charred remains were found the same day in a burned-down barn near the Don River.

The live-in farm hand had quarreled with his landlord and employer before falling into a “sulky fit” and earning a “slight kick” from the plowman, a local newspaper reported two days later. The man was never prosecuted for his death, dubiously deemed a suicide.

Several news stories, a name and a number — 983 — scribbled onto a graveyard plot card are all that survive to mark the boy’s existence.

Charles is one of 75 children whose remains lie buried, unmarked and virtually forgotten in a pair of mass graves at an Etobicoke cemetery. They were drops in the wave of British home children, sent in droves from the U.K. to build a fresh life on Canadian soil.

Now a research group has dug up their identities, giving new life to youths all but anonymous in death. The revelation unfolded as part of an effort to reclaim the pasts of more than 115,000 children shipped across the Atlantic as indentured servants between 1869 and 1948.

“This thing at Park Lawn Cemetery was held under wraps for many years,” says Lori Oschefski, who heads the British Home Child Advocacy and Research Association.

Source: Dozens of ‘British home children’ lie forgotten in Etobicoke cemetery | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to Dozens of ‘British home children’ lie forgotten in Etobicoke cemetery

  1. Marion Vermeersch says:

    Thank you very much for this article about the British Home Children, Andrew, a subject very close to my heart. I am always sad to read about the tragedies of so many of those children, and so thankful that my family were very fortunate to escape such a fate.

    My father and uncle arrived at Quebec via a Barnardo Homes ship but actually part of a group sponsored by the Free Kirk(Presbyterian) in Scotland. The boys were placed on farms in a community(Hillsburgh, Ontario) which welcomed and cared for them, although they did work hard, as did everyone in the 1920’s and 30’s. When the employers found out they had a widowed mother and siblings back in Scotland, assistance was given to bring them as well to Canada as soon as possible. Most of those boys worked in that area until returning to serve with the Canadian military in WWII.

    My father always knew how lucky they were, and how other child immigrants were badly treated. When Kenneth Bagnell’s book “The Little Immigrants” came out, he ensured we read it and learned that part of Canada’s history. Just like the residential school story, I do not recall that ever mentioned in public school, although there were many families in this area who originally had someone arrive in Canada this way, and the residential school was nearby in Brantford.

    I would like to see much more education and acknowledgement of the Home Children. And I know that other families of Home Children have run into problems with citizenship. What was the use of having a “Year of the Home Child” and a postage stamp if something as important and basic as citizenship is not a given for such contributions to the building of Canada? I hope that places such as the Park Lawn Cemetery will include suitable signage and designation in honour of those children who gave their lives in such a way as the boy in your article

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