La Presse

 

PUBLIC INQUIRY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
THE TRAGEDY OF THE 100,000 CHILDREN SENT FROM FORCE IN CANADA
More than 100,000 English poor children were forcibly sent to Canada from the end of the 19th century until after the Second World War. Often treated as slaves, they have suffered from assaults and sexual violence, recalls a survey that just opened this week in the United Kingdom.
NICOLAS BÉRUBÉ
THE PRESS
FACT THAT KNOWN

They were children of poor families, street children and orphans. In the second half of the nineteenth century and until the mid-twentieth century, the British government decided to send them, often by force, to the four corners of the British Empire where they could work. More than 100,000 unaccompanied children have thus "emigrated" to Canadian farms, including more than 8,000 in Quebec. "For almost all of them, they worked in fields, under conditions of slavery," says Lori Oschefski, president of the Canadian Home Children's Association. "The physical, psychological and sexual abuse they suffered was common and well documented. "

GOVERNMENT CLOSED EYES

The children often received no education and lived away from the family home of the farm. "At that time, poverty was seen as an infectious disease, so these children were often isolated," says Oschefski. Some slept in unheated barns, even during the winter. The children were transported from one farm to another, they could move dozens of times. My aunt Mary was one of those children. She was beaten, whipped, raped. She gave birth to a stillborn child at the age of 14 years. When my aunt died, you could still see the scars of the lashes on her back. "

SILENCE ACT

At the beginning of the program, these stories were little known. "But during the 1890s, the British government and the Canadian government knew that the program was sending children into a life of misery and abuse, and they continued to support it," says Oschefski. This week, the British government launched a public inquiry into children who have emigrated by force, a phenomenon that continued until 1974, especially in Australia. David Hill, who was forcibly sent and raped in Australia at the age of 12, testified that he wanted officials to be "publicly appointed." This month, the House of Commons in Ottawa recognized the "suffering and abuse" of children who have migrated to Canada. Oschefski would now like to hear Prime Minister Trudeau apologize on behalf of Canada to the families of these children.

GILLES DUCEPPE, EMIGRIDED CHILDHOOD

Immigrant children eventually had families, and their descendants are numerous in the country. Among them is former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, whose paternal grandfather, John James Rowley, arrived in Montreal in 1906. "My grandfather was lucky because he was adopted by a good family , Who wanted a child, at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. No one spoke English, so my grandfather was going to speak with the aboriginal people on the Kanesatake reserve. The play "Ne m'oublie pas", which is currently presented at the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, named after Gilles Duceppe's father, tells the story of a Home Child sent to Australia. Mr. Duceppe said he hoped that this difficult and less glorious episode in the history of Quebec and Canada would be better taught. "We, the descendants of the British Home Children, represent between 3.5 and 4 million people across Canada. It is not nothing, and yet it is a story that is unknown. "

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