November 1, 2014
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This essay draws attention to a little-known era in Canadian history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in which nearly 100,000 British children came to this country as child labourers. Research indicates that there was political and social support in both countries, especially at the outset, for poor and/or homeless British children to be sent to live with and work for Canadian families. As a result, several benevolent societies and religious organizations developed and carried out child migration schemes, bringing children to Canada to be trained as domestic servants or farm labourers. Controversy, doubts and suspicions eventually grew around the organizations and also extended to the children, many of whom came to be looked upon as having criminal tendencies, low intellect, low moral standards, and/or being without feelings. Recent research carried out with some Home Children, as they were called, points out the devastating effects such views had on the children. Feelings of shame, unworthiness, and inferiority persisted throughout their childhoods and adult lives.
Key Words: benevolent societies, British Poor Law, child labour, child migration to Canada, Home Children, Thomas Barnardo