Visitors to immigrantchildren.ca will be familiar with my view on the British Home Children “program”: I believe that it was state-sanctioned child trafficking. Still, it is worth noting that this September, Canada will mark 150 years since the first children “arrived”.
Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 has materials about this child emigration scheme, including this personal story.
Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness. To counter this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression.
Beyond addressing issues of race and racism, this children’s reading list focuses on taking action. It highlights resistance, resilience and activism; and seeks to empower youth to participate in the ongoing movement for racial justice. These books showcase the diverse ways people of all ages and races have engaged in anti-racist activism, and highlight how race intersects with other issues, such as capitalism, class and colonization. The majority of books center activists of color, whose lives and bodies have been on the front lines of racial justice work, yet whose stories often go untold. The essential work of white activists is also included?—?to underscore that anti-racist work is not the responsibility of people of color; and exemplify the ways white allies have stood up against racial injustice. This list was curated by The Conscious Kid Library and American Indians in Children’s Literature, in partnership with Raising Race Conscious Children.
Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters: Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America. Harriet Tubman helped hundreds of slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad. The lives of ten Black women activists are featured in an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in?—?even when it feels like no one is listening. Ages 6–9.
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation: Almost 10 years before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Latinx community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California. Ages 6–9.
When We Were Alone: When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, one of resilience, empowerment and strength. Ages 4–8.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist: Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. This moving picture book proves you’re never too little to make a difference. When nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she volunteered to get arrested, even though it meant she would have to go to jail. This is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. Ages 5–10.
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up: Fred Korematsu liked listening to music on the radio, playing tennis, and hanging around with his friends?—?just like lots of other Americans. But everything changed when the United States went to war with Japan in 1941. The government forced all people of Japanese descent to leave their homes on the West Coast and move to concentration camps. This included Fred, whose parents had immigrated to the United States from Japan many years before. But Fred refused to go. He knew that what the government was doing was unfair. And when he got put in jail for resisting, he knew he couldn’t give up. Ages 6–10.
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song: The audience was completely silent the first time Billie Holiday performed a song called “Strange Fruit.” In the 1930s, Billie was known as a performer of jazz and blues music, but this song wasn’t either of those things. It was a song about injustice, and it would change her life forever. Discover how two outsiders?—?Billie Holiday, a young Black woman raised in poverty, and Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants?—?combined their talents to create a song that challenged racism and paved the way for the Civil Rights movement. Ages 8–12.
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom: Martha Tom, a young Choctaw girl, knows better than to cross the river, but one day?—?in search of blackberries?—?she disobeys her mother and finds herself on the other side. Thus begins the story about seven slaves who cross the big river to freedom, led by a Choctaw girl. It documents a part of history that is little-known: the relationship between the Choctaws?—?members of a sovereign nation?—?and the slaves who lived in Mississippi during that time before the Civil War, before the Choctaws were forced out of Mississippi to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. Author Tim Tingle says: “Crossing Bok Chitto is a tribute to the Indians of every nation who aided the runaway people of bondage. Crossing Bok Chitto is an Indian book and documented the Indian way. We Indians need to know and embrace our past. Non-Indians should know the sweet and secret fire, as secret as the stones, that drives the Indian heart and keeps us so determined that our way, a way of respect for others and the land we live on, will prevail.” Ages 7–13.
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X: Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice. Bolstered by the love and wisdom of his large, warm family, young Malcolm Little was a natural born leader. But when confronted with intolerance and a series of tragedies, Malcolm’s optimism and faith were threatened. He had to learn how to be strong and how to hold on to his individuality. He had to learn self-reliance. Ilyasah Shabazz gives us a unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X, with a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today?—?that we must all strive to live to our highest potential. Ages 6–10.
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis: John wants to be a preacher when he grows up?—?a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice. Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story includes an author’s note about John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders; chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; and Georgia congressman, who is still an activist today. Ages 4–8.
She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland: Joan was a white teenager in the South during Segregation who put herself on the front lines of the Civil Rights struggle. She attended demonstrations and sit-ins and was one of the Freedom Riders in 1961 who was arrested and put on death row for months at the notorious Parchman Penitentiary. She was the first white person to join in the 1963 Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins in Jackson, Mississippi; and that same year, participated in the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 which contributed to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act that year. Ages 8–10.
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez: Cesar Chavez is known as one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders. When he led a 340-mile peaceful protest march through California, he ignited a cause and improved the lives of thousands of migrant farm workers. But Cesar wasn’t always a leader. As a boy, he was shy and teased at school. His family worked in the fields for barely enough money to survive. Cesar knew things had to change, and he thought that?—?maybe?—?he could help change them. So he took charge. He spoke up. And an entire country listened. Ages 4–7.
Nelson Mandela: Award-winning author-illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of global icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa, and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country. Mandela believed in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world. Ages 4–8.
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America: His white teacher tells her all-Black class, “You’ll all wind up porters and waiters”. What did she know? Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first Black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was poor and looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government. In Washington DC, Gordon went looking for a subject, but what he found was segregation. He and others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way. Told through lyrical verse and atmospheric art, this is the story of how, with a single photograph, a self-taught artist got America to take notice. Ages 4–8.
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story: Born in 1905, Anna May Wong spent her childhood working in her family’s laundry in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. Anna May struggled to pursue an acting career in Hollywood in the 1930s. There were very few roles for Asian Americans, and many were demeaning and stereotypical. Finally, after years of unfulfilling roles, Anna May began crusading for more meaningful opportunities for herself and other Asian American actors and refused to play stereotypical roles. As the first Chinese American movie star, she took a stand against racial discrimination in the film industry and was a pioneer of the cinema. Ages 6–11.
As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom: Their names stand for the quest for justice and equality. Martin grew up in a loving family in the American South, with the country plagued by racial discrimination. He aimed to put a stop to it. He became a minister like his father, and he preached and marched for the cause. Abraham grew up in a loving Jewish family in Germany. In 1938, he was arrested and deported by the Gestapo and his mother and sisters were killed by Nazi’s. He found a new home in America, where he became a respected rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance. This is the story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship, and turned their personal experiences of oppression into a message of love and equality for all. Ages 6–9.
We March: On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place?—?more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, advocating racial harmony. The thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience. Ages 2–7.
That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice: A vivid depiction of the early injustices encountered by a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920’s. Emma Tenayuca learns to care deeply about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were starving to death and working unreasonably long hours for 3 cents/hour in the city’s pecan-shelling factories. Through astute perception, caring, and personal action, Emma begins to get involved, and eventually, at the age of 21, leads 12,000 workers in the first significant historical action in the Mexican-American struggle for justice. Emma’s story serves as a model for young and old alike about courage, compassion, and the role everyone can play in making the world more fair. Ages 5–7.
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom: Carole Boston Weatherford depicts Harriet Tubman’s initial escape from slavery and her mission to lead others to freedom as divinely inspired, and achieved by steadfast faith and prayer. On the eve of her being sold and torn from her family, Tubman prays in her despair. In response, “God speaks in a whip-poor-will’s song. ‘I set the North Star in the heavens and I mean for you to be free.’ The twinkling star encourages Tubman: “My mind is made up. Tomorrow, I flee.” A foreword introduces the concept of slavery for children and an author’s note includes a brief biography of Tubman. Ages 5–8.
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills: Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by fellow Black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams. Ages 3–7.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement: Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength. Ages 9–12.
Josephine: Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Josephine used her platform to fight for racial equality and civil rights, and refused to dance in segregated American dance halls. Josephine is a powerful story of struggle and triumph. Ages 10–13.
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History: Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Ages 6–10.
Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers: Dolores wants to know why her students are too hungry to listen, why they don’t have shoes to wear to school. When she finds out that the farm workers in her community are poorly paid and working under dangerous conditions, she stands up for their rights. This is the story of Dolores Huerta and the extraordinary battle she waged to ensure fair and safe workplaces for Mexican and Mexican American migrant workers. Ages 6–8.
Rosa: Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed. Ages 4–8.
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride: Born into slavery, Belle had to endure the cruelty of several masters before she escaped to freedom. But she knew she wouldn’t really be free unless she was helping to end injustice. That’s when she changed her name to Sojourner and began traveling across the country, demanding equal rights for Black people and for women. Many people weren’t ready for her message, but Sojourner was brave, and her truth was powerful. Ages 5–9.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down: This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. Andrea Davis Pinkney uses poetic, powerful prose to tell the story of these four young men, who followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of peaceful protest and dared to sit at the “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter. Ages 7–10.
The Conscious Kid Library is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias, promoting positive identity development, and empowering youth to engage in social justice activism. They promote access to diverse children’s books that center and celebrate empowered images and narratives of underrepresented and oppressed groups. www.theconsciouskid.org
Raising Race Conscious Children is an education organization that provides direct supports to parents and teachers who are trying to talk about race and diversity with children. They provide resources and trainings to support adults and are committed to preparing young people to work toward racial justice. www.raceconscious.org
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The United Nations has defined trafficking as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Emily Bruce: email@example.com
“Possible panels suggested at the 2011 C&C network meeting:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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. immigrantchildren.ca 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.
immigrantchildren.ca will maintain a page on the home children and link related items, information, news and events related to the initiative over 2010.
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.
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?
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).
immigrantchildren.cawelcomed 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.
immigrantchildren.ca 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.
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?
At Pier 21, Canada’s Immigration Museum, Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced a cash infusion of $15 million to make the museum a national one. Pier 21 was the gateway to immigrants from 1928-1971. Pier 21 is also where the home children landed.