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A SORRY STATE FOR HOME CHILDREN

23-02-2010

The campaign to win justice for the Canadian Home Children – youngsters taken from the West Midlands and other parts of the UK to populate the Commonwealth – moves a step nearer success tomorrow when Gordon Brown is expected to apologise. But as John Willoughby explains that’s only a partial success.

In London, on Wednesday, 24 February, British Prime Minister Brown is scheduled to apologize to British Child Migrant representatives from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada! Yes, Canada. Finally.

Back in November, 2009, upon learning that Prime Minister Brown would be making this apology early in 2010, the Canadian Centre for Home Children (CCHC) immediately wrote to him. In a strongly-worded letter, we asked if any help would now be forthcoming for the British Home Children Community in Canada.

And, as it had been announced that child migrants from Australia had been invited to London for this event, we asked, too, if any home children from Canada had been invited. No response was received from the Prime Minister, but notification from his correspondence unit advised that our letter had been forwarded to the Department of Health for response.

In previous correspondence to then Prime Minister Blair, no response was ever received. However, seven months after sending that letter, a response did come from the Department of Health; basically advising that no help was going to be offered to the British Home Children in Canada.

The CCHC has been working since before its establishment in 1991, to help the British Home Children and their descendants in Canada to locate their lost families in the UK – with no help or support from the British or Canadian governments. More than 100,000 children were sent to Canada – they and their descendants now number 4,000,000 strong.

CCHC chair and founder, John Willoughby appeared in London in 1998 as a witness, and presented a written report to the British government’s Health Select Committee Hearings on child migrants.

Although the hearings resulted in marvellous recommendations being promised, they did not materialize for Canada – and our home children community was again dismissed by the British government. Yet, Britain set up funds for research and travel for Australia’s child migrants – approximately 3,000 children were sent to Australia.

The question to the British government still remains unanswered – why? Why are the British Home Children that were sent out to Canada being denied access to their families, their birthright and their history? Why are they treated with such indifference and such denial?

Equally deprived were the families of the home children left in the UK. According to a statement made by Canadian Member of Parliament, Jim Maloway, (NDP) in the House of Commons (Dec/09), there are some “20,000,000 British relatives” in the UK. Will they be receiving an apology as well?

While the CCHC is encouraged by the gesture of apology from Prime Minister Brown, we can only hope that it will lead to a much-needed fairness in the treatment of the long-suffering British Home Children Community in Canada.

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