Monday, October 2, 2017

'It's like they never existed': Toronto monument will honour mistreated British Home Children

Charles Bradbury is one of 75 children buried in two graves in a Toronto
cemetery. Researcher Lori Oschefski believes he was murdered. About
115,000 British Home Children came to Canada over eight decades.
They were told they would be leaving the bleak conditions of England for fresh air, clean country living and a better life in Canada.

But George Beardshaw, one of the children who made that trek, says that when he arrived alone at an Ontario farm back in 1938, it was soon made clear to him what was expected.

"I was there to work," says 94-year-old Beardshaw, sitting in his London, Ont., home. "They told me that many, many times: 'You're here to work.'"

Beardshaw's mother was unable to look after her three boys and sent her sons to an orphanage in Woodford Bridge, Essex. Both his brothers had left the orphanage, with one settling in Canada.

So when the school inspector came around asking who would like to go to Canada, Beardshaw raised his hand.

"I wanted to come over here and be a cowboy, or see the wheat fields," he said.

Instead, only minutes after he arrived at the Little Britain, Ont., farm, 100 kilometres northeast of Toronto, the then 14-year-old was told to put on coveralls and mow the lawn.

In reality, Beardshaw, like so many of these children, found their real purpose was to provide cheap labour.

"They never did a damn thing for me," Beardshaw says. "I worked, worked, worked, worked."

Lori Oschefski, CEO of the Barrie, Ont.-based British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association, said few Canadians know about the plight of the 115,000 British Home Children who immigrated to Canada from the U.K. between the late 1860s and 1948.

She learned that 75 children are buried in two graves that were unmarked for years in Toronto's Park Lawn Cemetery.

To ensure they are not forgotten, Oschefski spearheaded a campaign to erect a monument on the site, with all 75 names inscribed, to be unveiled on Sunday. "We need a place to go and remember these children. A place to go and mourn the loss of these children."

About four million Canadians are descendants of British Home Children. (more...)

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