Monday, November 16, 2009

Jason Kenney to imported poor children: Forced labour and abuse, so what!

You may have read that Britain is apologizing for shipping thousands of poor children off to the colonies in the 19th century, including Canada, where they often faced abuse and forced labour. You may have heard that, on behalf of Australia their Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd had apologized for the abuse and conditions the children faced in his country.

How about Canada, which took even more of the poor children than Australia and also treated the children to abuse and labour? Yeah, not so much. It seems Jason Kenney doesn't see the need:

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says there's no need for Canada to apologize for abuse and exploitation suffered by thousands of poor children shipped here from Britain starting in the 19th century.


But he says there's limited public appetite for official government apologies for tragic events of the past and no demand for one in this particular case.

Really, Jason Kenney? Let's take this thing piece by piece. First of all, you say there's "limited public appetite for official government apologies for tragic events of the past" and so sorry abused poor kids, no apology for you?

That's rich coming from a minister in one of the most apology-happy governments since confederation. The Harper Conservatives have apologized for residential school abuse, for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, for the Chinese Head Tax, the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WW II... All worthy and warranted apologies, to be sure, but it seems rich for this government to now to claim apology apathy.

Second, there's no demand for an apology, Jason? What does that mean? It seems the message is maybe Canada has done all kinds of bad things, but if no one is upset enough to lobby us about it then it's not worth apologizing over.

I'm sorry, Jason (opps, I apologized) but that's ridiculous. If something is wrong, then it's wrong. If something warrants an apology, then it warrants an apology. Lobbying or public pressure shouldn't be the deciding factor. All that should matter is if it was wrong, or not.

If you want some angry people with a group name though Jason, how's this:
Sidney Baker, 76, of Home Children Canada, said he also expects an apology from the Canadian government for the treatment of children who were scooped off streets in the U.K. and shipped to Canada between 1869 and 1939. ...

Baker said the victims and their families have never asked for compensation from the Canadian government - only an apology.

He said the group has been told that Ottawa has been working on an apology for some time.

Baker claimed that "between three and half and four million Canadians are descendants of the Home Children."

So there's demand that Minister Kenney insists "doesn't exist" even though the government told this group an apology was in the works. As I said though, public pressure aside, is an apology warranted here? Let's review:

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration says on its website that many of the children, most of whom ranged from eight to ten years of age, came from families of the urban poor who could not care for them properly.

CIC says most of the children were runaways or abandoned, but some were also orphans.

Children were generally sent to Canada without the knowledge or permission of their parents, a move made legal by the British Parliament.

Studies show that more than two-thirds were abused by their patrons in Canada, Home Children says.

According to CIC, it was only after the death of one of the home-children at an Ontario farm in 1895, that Canadians would learn about the British program.

George Everitt Green, a young agricultural labourer from England, died seven months after arriving in Canada, his body emaciated and covered with sores, visible scars of the cruel treatment the CIS says he received from his employer.

Other home children committed suicide in Canada between 1923 and 1924, which prompted an investigation by the British Parliament and led to Canada's Immigration Branch introducing a regulation in 1925 that prohibited charities from bringing children under 14 years of age to this country.

Yeah, sure Jason. No need to apologize for our nation's role in that dark chapter of our history.

For god's sake, do the right thing here. You can even "paraphrase" the Australian speech, if you want. If the Conservatives insist on hewing to Kenney's ignorant, embarrassing and demonstrably false line on this, the only lesson that can be taken is that the Harper government only apologizes when there's an identifiable voter group involved that they can woo.

So, sorry abused poor British kids.

Maybe you should get organized and move to key swing ridings and then Jason Kenney will care about you.

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RuralSandi said...

He doesn't care - there's no votes to be had. These "home children" would all be dead by now.

I had an uncle (by marriage) that was a Bernardo Home boy....what he went through - abuses by "rich" farmers was awful.

rockfish said...

How many votes can the CONs mine from the 'poor community'? It's much easier to do a racial profiling strategy or cherry-pick their cause celeb that makes a good photo op (not to denigrate those who've received apologies or statements of regret from this gov't and past gov'ts)... When it comes down to poverty as a whole, the CONs could care a whit about it. Ignatieff has to do a better job of making it clear that the Liberal Party has a focus on eliminating/reducing poverty across the board.

CK said...

Disgraceful! Just Disgraceful! Where is Steve today? Oh yeah! Making an ass out of himself 'dancing' in Mumbai for photo ops.

Jason Kenney will never apologize, unfortunate but sad.

What scares me about Harpercons is I'm sure they support child labour like in the third world.

Here is where Canada will be if Steve gets his majority:

Other Mother said...

This may seem shocking to most Canadians but as a former crown ward from Ontario this does not surprise me in the slightest. Canada has a dark history of abusing natives, wards and those shipped over from other countries. Apologies mean very little but REFORM would count for alot. Stop paying into the system, Write your MPP and MP and keep talking about it. It's the only way to stop this shameful legacy from continuing. (

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post. This is a government that has shown itself time and time again to be completely unsympathetic and unresponsive to anyone if it doesn't benefit their party directly.

DivaRachel said...

One of the slave children was interviewed today. 93 years old. Living in the Maritimes.

Aurelia said...

Some of them are alive, and some of them are still angry.

And their kids remember, and they will carry it on.

Thank you Jeff. I appreciate this.

Jennifer Smith said...

My late aunt Dorothy was a Bernardo Child, so this bugs me personally. What, they figure they already have the British White Vote all sewn up so they don't have to hypocritically suck up to them? Screw them! Adding up descendants and their spouses and other relatives, we're probably talking about 15-20% of the Canadian population. That's a hell of a voting block.

Anonymous said...

The other apologies were to identifiable groups--native Canadians and East Indians.

These other people aren't distinctive and so sucking up to them doesn't benefit them at the polls.

RuralSandi said...

I wasn't aware that some were still alive - I'm so sorry. My uncle would be about 113 if he were still alive...I made a bad assumption that they would all be around that age....he must have been one of the first ones.

McLea said...

If you apologize, it's like it never happened!!!

Jeff Jedras

/contrived outrage

PS Were the kids white? Okay, then no one cares.

Unknown said...

I am a former child migrant, sent to Australia from England in 1953 - I was 8 years of age.

I think an apology from your Prime Minister would at least acknowledge that abuse had occurred.

Sadly, many former child migrants (from my experience) don't really come to terms with their history.

I suffered really badly (chamber of horrors) for many years as a result of deprivation, abuse etc. I didn't know I had a mother until I was sixteen.

Fortunately through the grace of God - and many years of counselling - I made a complete recovery.

God bless you

Blanket America said...

This is sad to hear of child abuse...must be stopped immediately.