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Canada marks 150 years since the first child migrants

Child migrants to Canada 1925

28 September 2019 is the 150th anniversary of the first British Home Child arriving on Canadian shores as part of an official child migration scheme.  The term Home Child is widely used in Canada for those who, as children, were migrated mainly from children’s homes in Britain. There are estimated to be around four million descendants of the roughly 100,000 children sent from Britain to Canada.

Among those sent to Canada were Catholic children, who had started to be migrated from 1870 in Liverpool. By the early twentieth century, the Catholic agencies involved in child migration amalgamated this work under the Catholic Emigration Association. In 1905, Fr George Hudson, parish priest in Coleshill, Warwickshire, became secretary of this organisation. He was very involved in the migration of Catholic children to Canada, right up until the last Catholic child was sent in 1932. Fr Hudson accompanied the children on 30 voyages. While in Canada he would check on the progress and conditions of previous migrants and take the opportunity to visit adults who, as children, had migrated many years before. He was invited to officiate at several weddings.

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Some of the children who were migrated were from the children’s homes in Coleshill. After 1925, only those aged 14 and over could be sent to Canada. This group included some individuals who were never in an institution, but sought the opportunity of emigrating for employment opportunities.

Father Hudson’s Care, though its Origins Service, provides information from its records to those seeking answers about their childhood or their family history. Our last enquiry from one of the child migrants themselves came a few years ago, when a former migrant who had reached his 100th birthday was very pleased to find that we had records of his early childhood. The service continues to help descendants to understand the background of their relatives and the circumstances surrounding their emigration to Canada.

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At Mass celebrated by Fr Kamil on 4 October, at St Philomena’s Chapel in Coleshill, Father Hudson’s Care will remember those who – at such a tender age – made a long ocean crossing to a faraway land. We will pray for them and those who came after them.

There is more information about the British Home Children on the BHCARA website, as well as a list of other events in Britain and Canada to mark the anniversary. You can read more about our Origins Service here on our own website.

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