OTTAWA — British Home Children and their descendants will be among those remembered again this year at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa on November 11.
The Ontario East British Home Child Family group, which includes active participants in SD&G like Judy Neville of Finch, have invited Smith Falls & District Collegiate Institute teacher Blake Seward to be this year’s wreath bearer.
For decades, impoverished or orphaned children from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland were sent to Canada, often to serve as indentured farm and house labour. Ranging from three to 18 years of age, an estimated 130,000 or more of these ‘British Home Children’ arrived here between 1869 and the 1940s. Many went on to serve their new country as members of the Canadian military, some of them paying the supreme sacrifice.
A wreath has been laid on their behalf at Canada’s National War Memorial since 2013.
Beyond the Remembrance Day honour, Ontario has officially recognized Sept. 28 as British Home Child Day since 2010. Neville’s brother, then-MPP Jim Brownell, successfully spearheaded the private members’ bill that enshrined the commemorative date — inspired by their British Home Child grandmother.
Efforts are now underway to similarly recognize British Home Child Day nationally on Sept. 28, starting next year. Debate is scheduled Nov. 22 in Parliament on local MP Guy Lauzon’s motion (m-133) “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions made by the over 100,000 British Home Children to Canadian society, their service to our armed forces throughout the twentieth century, the hardships and stigmas that many of them endured, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon the story of the British Home Children for future generations by declaring September 28 of every year, British Home Child Day in Canada.”
Several other MPs have seconded Lauzon’s motion.
This article was updated to reflect the new date for debate on Lauzon’s motion — now pushed from Nov. 21 to Nov. 22. It’s scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. in the House of Commons.