PORT HOOD: Three women from Port Hood and one from West Bay Road were special guests at the municipal building during a ceremony honouring the 150th anniversary of the arrival of British Home Children to Canada.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to look back on the darker parts of Canadian history,” said Inverness Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said. “It can make us feel guilty and ashamed, but it’s also an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and build a kinder, more welcoming Canada.”
From 1869 to 1932, over 118,000 kids came to Canada and other countries to work as indentured servants through child migration.
In some cases, those kids became members of welcoming families. Some were not so lucky, pointed out MacQuarrie, who noted that some people took advantage of the newly arrived children, using them as a source of free labour.
Despite the darker side of child migration, the warden said her county is better for the influx of citizens who arrived here as home children. Just outside the municipal building is a commemorative bench “to honour these brave children and their descendants,” the warden said.
MacQuarrie read a proclamation that officially designated September 28 as British Home Child Day. She also presented a framed version of the proclamation to the members of the Chestico Museum and Historical Society.
The proclamation will be hung at the museum.
Two of the young men who arrived in Canada were Louis Wyre (in Princeville) and John Guest (in Port Hood). The daughters of those men were the special guests at last Thursday’s ceremony.
“Daddy was a lucky, lucky man,” said Patsy Campbell, Wyre’s daughter.
“He was raised by a brother and sister, Maggie and Jimmy MacArthur, in Princeville. They treated him like gold, but there were others who weren’t treated so well.”
Local historian John Gillies asked Campbell if it was the death of her grandmother that led to her father and his siblings coming to Canada as home children. She said it wasn’t that.
“It’s the same story that’s out there for most,” she said. “There was poverty and drinking, whatnot, and she just didn’t have the capacity to raise her children. You always hear that it was a terrible thing, but it wasn’t. They would have died in the streets in England.”
John Guest was raised by John and Minnie MacNeil, and three of Guest’s children were visiting the municipal building last Thursday. They were Annie Guest-Chaisson, Ruth Guest, and Edna Guest.
“Goodness always wins out,” Ruth said. “Minnie had a brother, a Shaw from Margaree, and he became dad’s mentor: Jim Shaw. Family is what kept dad in the area. He had that connection with Uncle Jim Shaw.
“It was always important for dad to have all his children around.”
Gillies noted a rich history of British Home Children exists in Inverness County.