Child trafficking: Canada’s historical shame

July 30th marks World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The office of the Status of Women, Government of Canada retweeted about it, as did many others, raising awareness of the devastation committed against trafficked persons, many of them children, most of them female.

  RT According to , women & girls represent 71% of victims. Modern slavery is real, we must





From 1869 to 1932, Canada participated in a child emigration scheme hatched in the UK which saw more than 100,000 children brought into the country for labour, mostly domestic work for girls and farm work for boys. These children were not orphaned, as many were lead to believe. Their crime, or the crime of their parents, is that they were poor. The governments of the United Kingdom and Canada entered into an agreement to remove these children, often right off the street, ship them to Canada and send them to Canadians who needed an “extra hand”. Surviving ‘home children’ and their descendants tell stories of physical and sexual abuse by their ‘host families’.

The British Home Children scheme was state-sanctioned child trafficking. And despite efforts of many, and an acknowledgement from the House of Commons, the Prime Minister of Canada has not issued a formal apology for this atrocity.

Read more about the British Home Children.

Call for papers: Children and Childhood Network, Histories of Capitalism

Call for papers, as posted on the H-CHILDHOOD&H=H-NET.MSU.EDU listserv, for the Children and Childhood Network of the Social Science History Association:

“We invite you to participate in the 37th annual meeting of the Social Science History Association (SSHA) by submitting a paper or session proposal to the Children and Childhood Network of the SSHA. The conference will take place November 1-4, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information on the conference as well as the general call for proposals, please refer to the SSHA website. The association particularly emphasizes interdisciplinary and transnational research, and the annual meeting provides a very supportive environment in which to present new work. The theme of the 2012 conference is Histories of Capitalism, though papers related to the conference location of Vancouver or other aspects of social science history are also welcome.

“Please see a preliminary list below of session ideas generated at last year’s C & C network meeting. Complete panels must include at least 4 papers and presenters from more than one academic institution. Other formats, including roundtable discussions and book sessions, are also possible. Proposals can be submitted by means of a web conference management system.

“If you have any questions, please contact either of the Children and Childhood network co-chairs: Birgitte Søland: Emily Bruce:

“Possible panels suggested at the 2011 C&C network meeting:

• youth, parents, and the market (contact Emily Bruce,

• children’s social capital

• indigeneity and youth

• globalization of child labor

• trafficking

• surrogacy/reproductive technologies

• child placement in histories of capitalism

• disability, the medicalization of childhood

• children and consumerism

• international adoption

• roundtable on pedagogy: teaching the history of childhood

• queer childhoods

The deadline for full panel or individual paper proposals is March 1, 2012″.

Call for papers: (Dis)placed childhoods: Forced migrations and youth welfare policies of the 19th and 20th centuries

A call for papers from La Revue d’histoire de l’enfance “irrégulière” est spécialisée dans le champ de l’enfance et de la jeunesse marginales ou marginalisées/Journal of the History of “irregular” Childhood is a scholarly, peer reviewed journal focused on the history of marginalized childhood and youth.

(Dis)placed childhoods. Forced migrations and youth welfare policies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Edited by David Niget and Mathias Gardet.

From the call (posted on H-NET List for History of Childhood and Youth) “Most of the young people placed in institutions under child welfare policies were in fact displaced or imigrated. Authorities and philanthropic societies have, over the past two centuries, proceeded to displace tens of thousands of children: they were separated from families who were deemed to be corrupting, kept away from their neighbourhoods and from socialising with criminals, moved away from towns and cities to fulfill a recurring dream of reversing rural exodus,which was at first only a fantasy and which then became more and more real.

“But some children were displaced in a more systematic and planned way, not only in order to distance them from their homes, but also just to establish them elsewhere. Thus, some policies implemented a deliberate and thorough going programme of mass displacement of juvenile populations, often beyond national borders, in accordance with colonial objectives, specific political situations. These programmes can be correlated to wars and regime changes, educational and ideological utopias or specific institutional strategies. Therefore, the justification for the removal of the children from their home environment was either to punish them or to establish a utopia.

“Biopolitical issues have emerged: Was it about removing bad influences from the State or about regenerating the nation by transplanting its offspring in a healthy and promising substratum? In the name of the imperialism or colonisation, children from working-class English families were sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and therefore not merely the result of a political situation, or of chance selection of the most vulnerable victims. From the 19th to the 20th century, migration became a tool for the political management of populations, of which childhood is emblematic.

“This colourful but little known history raises questions for any historian:

“What is the relationship between biopolitics and childhood? How does the increasing concern to pursue a population policy, with the future planning and management of human resources of contemporary societies in mind, lead to the formulation of childhood policies within the ambit of demographics, and more specifically the control of migration flows? How do humanitarian organisations become involved with these policies?

“What is the status of childhood within the creation of State policies? From the citizen to the ‘new man’, how does childhood and youth become interpreted into political meaning and absorbed into the heart of the nation? What about the notion of the Empire and child exploitation within this colonial enterprise?

“How are gender, class and ethnicity analysed within these questions relating to migrpopulating? In the colonial enterprise, is the displacementof young orphans from cities to Africa an attempt to ‘whiten’ the colonies, or to perpetuate, with regard to Canada, Australia or New Zealand, ethnically homogenous colonies? What about acculturation goals reflected by the displacement of indigenous children?

“What organisations did support these displacements? Displacement policies, exclusive from the State, also resulted from the intervention of private, philanthropic and religious or political parties. What kindof devices did these displacement policies put in place? What kind of institutions? Were they open, closed, educational or punitive? Did they involve institutional violence and did they include compensation policies in recent years?

“What expertise was involved in this undertaking? Were demographic and economic reasons used? What was the role of social work in the identification of those to be displaced? Were medicine and psychoanalytic methods used to select young people?”.

Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2011. For more information, contact

Canada Post stamp to commemorate 2010 Year of the British Home Child

 Stamp set

Canada has declared 2010 Year of the British Home Child to acknowledge the child emigration scheme that brought over 100,000 children from Britain to Canada from 1826 to 1939. Under the guise of providing a welcoming home for poor, abandoned and orphaned children, a great many of these children came to Canada and served as farm labourers and domestic servants and endured lives of abuse from the people who acquired them.

On Sept 1, 2010, Canada Post will issue a stamp in recognition of the British Home Child. From the Canada Post catalogue: “The stamp features an image of the SS Sardinian (a ship that carried children from Liverpool to Quebec), a map symbolizing their cross-Atlantic journey, a photograph of a child at work on a farm and one of a rewly arrived Home Child, standing beside a suitcase while en route to a distributing home in Hamilton, Ontario”.

2010 is Year of the British Home Child in Canada

2010 has been designated as Year of the British Home Child in Canada. It commemorates the child emigration scheme that brought over 100,000 children from Britain to Canada between 1826 and 1939. The plan was sold to Canadians as a way to support children who were orphaned and living in poverty. A great many of these children came to Canada and served as farm labourers and domestic servants and endured lives of abuse from the people who acquired them. has been vocal about the importance of Canada’s acknowledgment of the wrongs committed against these children and has called for a formal apology from the Federal government. In November, the British government apologized to the home children. will maintain a page on the home children and link related items, information, news and events related to the initiative over 2010.

Holiday gifts for newcomers

1. Subscription to a daily mainstream national newspaper. I recommend The Globe and Mail and/or the National Post. Both often feature items related to immigration and both are well written and present clear points of view on issues of immigration and settlement.

2. Subscription to a local newspaper. Depending on where the newcomer settles, the local paper offers, often painfully accurately, the local environment: it is important for the newcomer to know where they have landed, how they are welcomed (or not) and avenues for settling, integrating, opportunities for employment and recreation, etc in their chosen community.

3. “100 Photos that Changed Canada” is a beautiful ‘coffee-table’ book that illustrates and documents the journey and history of immigration to Canada. Both heartening and heart-breaking stories and histories are included, everything from the “Girl from Canada”, a living exhibit of a young woman on a bicycle outfitted with all the bells and whistles that ostensibly depicted life in Canada as an incentive to British, to the injustice of the Komagata Maru incident, documenting the history of the “one continuous voyage” policy in immigration policy, to the repatriation of Japanese Canadians after internment during WWII, to Canada’s disgrace in refusing Jewish children’s emigration, 100 Photos is an illustrated history of Canada.

4. Rudyard Griffith’s Who We Are: The Citizen’s Manifesto is a current examination of the state of the nation and the place of the newcomer in it.

5. Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is a beautiful, timeless and ageless picture book that illustrates beautifully the immigrant experience. Children and adults alike will marvel at the empathic depictions of what it is like to land on new shores. Readers will find comfort in this volume, which lovingly and accurately depicts the typical newcomer journey: leaving family, reconciling, being a stranger in a strange land.

6. Library cards to the local public and local university libraries. Many Canadian university libraries offer a “research reader” or “community member” card for non-students. Local public libraries have agreements with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and offer Library Settlement Service programs, a support to newcomers.

This list is reading-heavy: What are your suggestions for other/additional best gifts for newcomers?

Britain apologizes to home children

Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, The Honourable Jason Kenney, continues to get positive responses from media and, as translated by an Environics poll, average Canadians, for his revamped citizenship guide, released last week. The new guide, Discover Canada, outlines the rights and responsibilities of new immigrants to Canada, and provides a more in-depth look at Canadian history than the previous editions, including, much to Kenney’s (and his advisor’s) credit, some of the shameful ways immigrants have been treated in this country.

For example, the guide acknowledges that Chinese immigrants were welcome to build the national railway, but afterwards, “were subject to discrimination including the Head Tax, a race-based entry fee; the Government of Canada apologized in 2006 for this discriminatory policy” (p.20). The guide also acknowledges the “relocation of West Coast Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government, and the forcible sale of their property (during WWII)…The Government of Canada apologized for wartime wrongs inflicted on Japanese Canadians” (p. 23). welcomed the release of the new revised guide last week and hoped that it would include acknowledgment of the treatment of the “home children” – the approximately 100,000 children who were sent to Canada in a child emigration scheme and who were, as history tells us, routinely neglected, abused and often worked to their deaths. The new citizenship guide did not include mention of these littlest immigrants. was delighted to read that the British government has apologized to the home children it sent away (see, for example, this piece in the National Post). A spokesperson from the organization Home Children Canada welcomed the news and demands such an apology from the Canadian government. The apology is not forthcoming.

The “home children” represent another shameful period in Canada’s history and also merits acknowledgment – in the next edition of Discover Canada, in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, in a permanent display at Pier 21, in history text books and in an apology.

In two days, Canada will celebrate National Child Day and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To keep moving forward on child rights, Canada needs to admit to its historic wrongs.

New citizenship guide for new Canadians

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism today released an updated guide to Canadian Citizenship. Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

The launch of the “study guide” (last published in 1997) was held at the Terry Fox Centre, where Minister Kenney talked about inspiration, fortune and his vision for modern Canada. The announcement – and guide – provide a generous nod to Canada’s military history and major events (the 1997 edition skipped quite a bit of this, including Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Dieppe). The guide also does not shy away from some shameful periods in Canada’s past, such as the residential schools for Aboriginal children, the Internment of Japanese Canadians and the Chinese Exclusion Act, but I was disappointed to not see mention of the home children.

Canadian history must acknowledge the home children – some 100,000 children taken from their homeland and brought to our shores to serve labour needs that Canadians could not or would not take on (sound familiar?). A great many of these children were younger than 10 years old and lived lives of brutality. These children were not adopted in the sense of how we use the word today, but taken, often bought and treated as chattel.  I’ll be lobbying the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to include an exhibit on the home children. Who’s with me?

Meet Rebecca: A Russian-Jewish immigrant doll

The American Girl series of historical fiction for young adults has been a big success in the US. A similar series runs in Canada, and includes a story about the home children: Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope, written by Jean Little. The Canadian series is called Our Canadian Girl.

The American Girl series also has accompanying dolls. Launching this weekend, to great anticipation, will be Rebecca, the Russian-Jewish immigrant doll to go along with Jacqueline Dembar Greene’s Meet Rebecca.

According to the May 23rd edition of the Sunday New York Times, a great deal of research went into what a Russian-Jewish immigrant doll should look like, with early comments favourable (Previous American Girl dolls stirred up controversies).

The early years study ~ 10 years later

The landmark Early Years Study, subtitled The Real Brain Drain, was released on April 20, 1999.

See also a “very brief history” of the Early Years Study posted on the Health Nexus Santé (formerly the Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse) blog in March 2005, including links to the follow-up report The Early Years Study: Three Years Later, recounting how the early years initiative was rolled out in Ontario via the Ontario Early Years Centres.

Fraser Mustard and the Council on Early Child Development continue to work to raise awareness of and support for an early childhood learning and care program for all children and their families across Canada as the first tier to the formal school system.

See the upcoming conference sponsored by the Council on Early Child Development May 13-15 in New Brunswick, Putting Science into Action: Equity from the Start Through Early Child Development.

How responsive have the Ontario Early Years Centres been to immigrant and refugee families and young children?