by Ellen Scheinberg, historian, and Angèle Alain, Library
and Archives Canada
Throughout its lifetime, the juvenile immigration program
received mixed reviews. Some viewed it as enhancing ties between Canada and Britain
and boosting Canada's economy by providing young labourers for farmers and homemakers.
Others felt that the program served as a means of dumping Britain's "rubbish"
on Canada or that it exploited the children involved. Although the Dominion government
typically promoted the program's success -- i.e., its positive treatment and development
of the children -- a significant number of abuse cases arose.
One of the most famous cases was that of George Everitt Green, a 15-year-old boy who, in 1895, died of neglect, starvation and abuse. His caregiver, Helen Findlay, was charged with murder but was never convicted, as the jury was unable to agree on a verdict.
Another example of ill-treatment, reported in the Ottawa Citizen in October 1899, concerned a boy living on a farm in Quebec who was to be shipped back to England. His employer, treated him like a servant -- not paying him for his work and dictating what he could write in his letters to his father -- and refused to give him up, saying that he had bought the boy for $5. The neighbors took pity on the child and the case became known to the authorities.
These and other cases led the public to question the juvenile immigration scheme. While some Canadians became concerned with the treatment of the children, others feared that the young immigrants would pose a danger to the community. Popular opinion of both kinds prompted the government to make several changes to the program: a bill in 1897; the establishment of an inspection division of the Immigration Branch in 1900; a 1925 amendment restricting the emigration of unaccompanied children to those over 14 years of age; and, ultimately, the cancellation of the program in the 1930s.