British Home Children officially remembered
M-133 passed unanimously in the House of Commons on Wed., Feb. 7 with Sept. 28 the British Home Child Day in Canada. Celebrating the event, from the left, in the front row are: Charlene Widrick, Wendy Pitblado, MPP Guy Lauzon, Linda Bell and Jennifer DeBruin; in the back row: Adrian Bugelli, Tom Brownell, Eleanor McGrath, Ameke DeBruin and Larry Bell. Absent from the photo are Jim Brownell, Judy Neville and Carolyn Goddard. Thompson Goddard Photo
Carolyn Thompson Goddard
OTTAWA – M-133, a federal private members motion designating Sept. 28 as British Home Child Day in Canada and recognizing the contribution of British children who came to Canada to work as indentured servants, passed by unanimous vote in the House of Commons on Feb. 7.
Stormont Dundas and South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon introduced this motion on Nov. 22, 2017, after being contacted by Judy Neville, President of the Ontario East British Home Child Family, about national recognition for the contributions of the BHC to their adopted country.
Adrian Bugelli, Lauzon’s Chief of Staff, explained how a Private Members’ Motion becomes effective immediately upon adoption by the House and is the “will of the House”. He continued explaining that after Lauzon was approached by Neville he felt their stories needed to be told on a national basis and began the long process which resulted with the vote on Feb. 7 of this year.
Just prior to the vote, Lauzon mentioned how he was feeling humble and elated about bringing this endeavour to conclusion. He said, “We need to teach Canada about the British Home Children.” This sentiment is echoed by Neville who in a prepared statement issued Feb. 8 mentioned the OEBHCF organization “will continue to collect, preserve and share the stories” of the BHC in Canada and continue work “to ensure the history of British Home Children is woven into Canadian history.”
Seated in the Opposition Gallery of the House Of Commons and watching as parliamentarian after parliamentarian stood up to vote “yes” to Motion M-133 were Aneke DeBruin, a Carleton University student currently researching British Home Children, her mother Jennifer DeBruin, British Home Child descendants Tom Brownell and Carolyn Goddard, Larry Bell whose family hosted a BHC and wife Linda, as well as Wendy Pitblado and filmmaker Eleanor McGrath.
McGrath, whose documentary Forgotten had a special screening for invited guests and MPs on Feb. 1, said, “As a Canadian and a mother, I am extremely honoured to be part of the small group here,” and “commended Judy Neville whose commitment and drive to get us here is admirable and must be acknowledged.”
Former SDSG MPP Jim Brownell, who with MPP Cheri DiNovo and MPP Steve Clark, successfully initiated Bill 185 in 2011 designating Sept. 28 as British Home Child Day in Ontario, commented, “While the stories of our British Home Child ancestors were largely untold in the past, the unanimous vote in the House of Commons, for a national British Home Child day, supports the determination and perseverance of these immigrants to Canada, and gives “credence to the stories that have been hidden for so long.”
Lori Oschefski, CEO of the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association, when asked for a comment on the passing of M-133 replied, “We are absolutely delighted with our newly established National British Home Child Day designation. It is a huge step in gaining recognition for their immeasurable contributions made to Canada in its formative years.”
Oschefski continued, “In speaking with British Home Child George Beardshaw, 94 years old, he expressed his delight in this recognition of a National Day. Mr. Beardshaw has been kept up to date with all activities as we work towards acknowledging their place in our history.”
Vice-President of the British Home Child Group International Sandra Joyce said “Finally, with the passing of Motion 133 in the Canadian House of Commons, we have an official National Day of recognition for our British Home Children. Moving forward, every Sept. 28 will be a day that we can celebrate our ancestors’ contributions to Canadian Society and continue to bring their stories to light.”
For almost 70 years, the Canadian Government facilitated the immigration of British children between infancy and 18 years of age, with most working as indentured servants in the homes as domestics and on the farms as hired workers throughout Canada. With the unanimous vote on M-133, members of the House of Commons recognize the service of these young children to their adopted country throughout their entire lives.