‘It’s like they never existed’: Toronto monument will honour mistreated British Home Children

As in the case of other immigration restrictions and abuse, important that the British Home Children be remembered. The previous Conservative government did have a ceremony to mark their mistreatment, where former Senator Gerry St. Germain spoke eloquently about his personal experience. Canada Post also issued a stamp:

They were told they would be leaving the bleak conditions of England for fresh air, clean country living and a better life in Canada.

But George Beardshaw, one of the children who made that trek, says that when he arrived alone at an Ontario farm back in 1938, it was soon made clear to him what was expected.

“I was there to work,” says 94-year-old Beardshaw, sitting in his London, Ont., home. “They told me that many, many times: ‘You’re here to work.'”

Beardshaw’s mother was unable to look after her three boys and sent her sons to an orphanage in Woodford Bridge, Essex. Both his brothers had left the orphanage, with one settling in Canada.

So when the school inspector came around asking who would like to go to Canada, Beardshaw raised his hand.

“I wanted to come over here and be a cowboy, or see the wheat fields,” he said.

Instead, only minutes after he arrived at the Little Britain, Ont., farm, 100 kilometres northeast of Toronto, the then 14-year-old was told to put on coveralls and mow the lawn.

In reality, Beardshaw, like so many of these children, found their real purpose was to provide cheap labour.

“They never did a damn thing for me,” Beardshaw says. “I worked, worked, worked, worked.”

Lori Oschefski, CEO of the Barrie, Ont.-based British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association, said few Canadians know about the plight of the 115,000 British Home Children who immigrated to Canada from the U.K. between the late 1860s and 1948.

She learned that 75 children are buried in two graves that were unmarked for years in Toronto’s Park Lawn Cemetery.

To ensure they are not forgotten, Oschefski spearheaded a campaign to erect a monument on the site, with all 75 names inscribed, to be unveiled on Sunday. “We need a place to go and remember these children. A place to go and mourn the loss of these children.”

About four million Canadians are descendants of British Home Children.

Oschefski said the scheme was born out good intentions, with over 50 organizations involved to bring children to Canada.

Hoping for a better life

Thousands of children in Britain were living in squalid conditions, their families in dire straits. Some families, she said, felt they had no choice but to give up their kids to these organizations, hoping they would have a better life in places like Canada. Only about two per cent of the children shipped over were orphans.

The British charity Barnardo’s sent 30,000 to Canada, and many became known as the Barnardo Home Boys.

“Some did receive good homes and some were accepted in as members of the family,” said Oschefski. “But those instances of that happening are far and few between.”

“The vast majority of these children were treated as workers, these children were not welcomed as family members.”

Source: ‘It’s like they never existed’: Toronto monument will honour mistreated British Home Children – Toronto – CBC News

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