Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Debates on migrating to Canada ......... 1910 ...... part one

Now I know I won’t be alone in wishing I could have been at the conference called in the March of 1910 to discuss the “work of emigrating people from this country to the colonies.”.

Leaving Manchester for Canada, 1897
What follows is pretty much just a report on the events.

The over arching theme was to explore ways of “introducing order and uniformity into emigration" and over fifty agencies were represented ranging from children’s charities to ex servicemen’s groups.

The conference was called by the Royal Colonial Institute which had been formed in 1868 with the purpose of “providing a meeting place for gentlemen interested in colonial and Indian affairs.”*

The Institute had carried out some preliminary investigation into the methods of emigrating societies and in the words of the Manchester Guardian had come up “with some interesting results.”*

“Some of the societies, such as the Boys’ and Girls’ Homes of Manchester and Salford and Dr Barnadardo’s Homes are mainly for giving aid to poor and destitute children promoting emigration to the farm school system.  Two societies encourage emigration to South Africa only and there is a league for assisting ex servicemen.  The arrangements for the repayment of loans differ greatly.”

The Institute was keen “to divert the stream of British emigration now going outside the empire to the colonies” and there was a suggestion for a national emigration association.

Naturally there were divergent interests, with one focus on the need to establish a land bank to settle men in depression times and the Canadian Government’s position of refusing to accept immigrants unless they are prepared to settle on the land.”

But most of us will I suspect have been drawn to the discussions around child migration.

The Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration didn’t support sending out “little children as child labour for the colonies or for boarding out pauper children.” 

Barnado’s defended migration, "now 10,000 children" and claimed "there was only a 2% failure rate" which most us would want to know what that actually meant.

The Women’s Emigration Society had just begun emigrating teachers at the request of the authorities who were badly needed.

The Manchester Refuge speaker Mr T.R. Ackroyd said that the charity “only sends out boys who have been rescued from evil surroundings.”

Report on my BHC, 1916
In Manchester he said “there is a good deal of opposition to the system of emigrating children” he “urged fixing a limit of age to the children sent to Canada. Adding that there is a feeling that they are not treated as kindly as they ought to be, and it would help us if from expert evidence it could be generally understood that these children are cared for and loved.”

The discussions fixed on many of those issues all of us have ourselves pondered on from the Salvation Army reflecting that “On the one side we wanted to get rid of a large amount of our surplus population; on the other hand the Government of Canada would not have them at any price.”

And the Canadian response from Mr Aitken K.G   “Canada doesn’t want any  population, Great Britain doesn’t want” adding “We want immigrants of good character and health , energy and industry.  We are willing to throw Canada open to the right class – but it must be the right class.”

So there we have it and I know others have explored the opposition to migration from within Canada and I want to follow up on what constituted “failure” and what happened to those failures.

In the case of my own BHC he did indeed fail twice on his first two placements but reading the reports and knowing his background I am not surprised at the outcome.  He kicked against authority and so when he did finally run away from his last farm and join the C.E.F., in 1915, his experiences were no less dramatic.

More on the Conference soon.

Pictures; ccourtesy of the Together Trust, https://www.togethertrust.org.uk/

* Emigration Manchester and Canadian Child Labour, Manchester Guardian, May 31, 1910

** Reese, Trevor R. (1968), The History of the Royal Commonwealth Society 1868–1968, London: Oxford University Press

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