New Monument in downtown Halifax to remember the British Home Children
A new monument has been placed in downtown Halifax to remember and recognize the British Home Children.
More than 100,000 children were sent to Canada to work as farm labour at the turn of the 19th century.
Descendants of the British Home Children gathered at the new memorial on Saturday, each one having parents or grandparents that were sent to Canada for labour.
Some were orphans, like Don Ambler’s father, who arrived in 1926.
“The age of 13, that’s what he was, 13, when he arrived here, and at the age of 18, he got his freedom as was said, and it was a challenge for a young boy,” said Ambler.
Ambler’s father worked on two farms before settling in Ontario to start a family.
“Apparently the first farm was quite rough but he was then placed in another one where it went quite well and they sort of took him in as a family member,” said Ambler. “So, it worked out reasonably well for my father.”
With over 100,000 children sent to Canada, the descendants could number in the millions, but it is hard to know the exact number.
“The British Home Children were very quiet about it. They were almost embarrassed about it. So, they didn’t talk about it,” said Caroline Anne MacIsaac, whose father was a British Home Child. “So, most of us don’t know.”
The monument sits in front of Pier 21. Inside, the exhibits on immigration talk about the home children and the hardships they went through, shuffling from one placement to the next as child labour.
“Between where they were coming to work as boys, either as farm labour, or as girls, mother, helpers, and domestic, the insecurity and the unpredictability of It really abides in their stories as a lasting pain,” said Steve Schwinghamer, an historian at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
It was a pain that stayed with many of the home children for the rest of their lives.
“The biggest thing that I found out about my dad and how he felt was when my mother died,” said MacIsaac. “On the way home from the funeral, he said, ‘Now I’m all alone again.’ So, that made me realize what he must have felt years earlier.”
Now, there stands a monument where descendants can gather to recognize the hardships their parents and grandparents endured, so that they could be here today.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron-Cadloff