I am pausing my stories of the 70 British Home Children sent to St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage in Prince Albert between 1901 and 1907 to make the following exciting announcement.
September 28th is National British Home Child Day in Canada, as proclaimed by the Government of Canada in 2017. As a volunteer with Home Children Canada, I wrote a letter to His Worship Mayor Greg Dionne requesting the participation of the City of Prince Albert in the Beacons of Light Tribute on 28 September 2023. I am pleased to announce that the Mayor has signed a proclamation formally designating that date as British Home Child Day. To my knowledge, Prince Albert is the first community in Saskatchewan to do this.
Beacons of Light has been held annually since 2019 to honor the memory of British Home Children. For the past five years Home Child Canada has asked communities and individuals to illuminate memorials, monuments, or buildings in red, white, and blue or yellow on September 28th. Yellow represents Home Children Canada’s floral emblem, the sunflower. The “Porch Light” or “We’ll leave the light on for you – In memory of British Home Children,” is where individuals leave their porch light on overnight on September 28th. Many communities have started doing events including gatherings, educational events at museums, and flag raising. Last year, for example, some Home Children descendants were invited to participate in a sharing circle with a group of Quw’utsun Elders and community members on Vancouver Island, British Columbia where they discussed colonization stories of Canada.
Home Children Canada is a registered charity that seeks to promote awareness of the British child migration scheme to Canada. (See https://www.britishhomechildren.com/) The organization focuses on assisting British Home Children and their descendants to find information on lost families (free of charge) and they safely secure and catalogue historical artifacts related to the children (trunks, medals, books, etc.).
The charity works to educate the public about this little-known, international child migration scheme which began in the late 19th century and continued until the 1970s. Tens of thousands of British children of all ages from poor and culturally marginalized families were sent to Canada (and other parts of the British empire) to be used as cheap labour. Many these children went on to serve in WW1. Most Canadians are completely unaware of this migration scheme that spanned four continents and lasted over 150 years.
I am collaborating with another British Home Child volunteer, Susan Hillman Brazeau of Lloydminster, on a joint PowerPoint presentation at the Prince Albert Historical Museum on Saturday, September 23rd. Susan will cover the history of the child migration scheme in her presentation, with a focus on the British children who ended up in western Canada. I will speak specifically about the 70 children sent to St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage in the city.
I look forward to working with the Museum, the Prince Albert Daily Herald, the City of Prince Albert, and interested community members on strategies for the city to participate in Beacons of Light on September 28th. Watch for more information about National British Home Child Day and Beacons of Light as the autumn date approaches.