Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise this evening.
I would like to begin by thanking my hon. colleagues from all sides of the House for their comments, insights, and stories from constituents, which highlight the scope and influence the British home children have had on our shared story as Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Despite writing a vital chapter in the story of Canada, many Canadians have never heard a whisper of their stories.
As I mentioned in my earlier remarks, over 10% of the Canadian population can trace their heritage directly to the British home children, yet so many will never know the truth of their ancestry due, in part, to the fact that many British home children carried a stigma of neglect, abuse, torment, and isolation. This burden they carried, which was completely unfounded, was carried long into their adulthood, with so many not wanting to talk about their early lives, therefore burying a piece of our country's history.
From the speeches and comments by my colleagues from all parties, it is clear that these Canadians and their descendants are more than deserving of being recognized with an official day of remembrance that would take place on September 28 of every year.
Until recent years, very few Canadians knew about British home children. Their stories of hardship, courage, determination, and perseverance were not part of Canadian history books. This needs to change. The more than 100,000 British home children, from infancy to 18 years of age, who were sent to Canada from Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales between 1869 and 1948 helped to build the foundation of our emerging country. Many were farm labourers and domestic workers in homes spread right across this wonderful country called Canada.
Despite the good intentions of individuals, philanthropists, faith-based groups, and charitable organizations that sought to care for these unfortunate children and truly believed that they were doing a good and noble thing for them, unfortunately there were those who sought to take advantage of these children. Often the children went into rural areas, where they were seen by many as cheap labour, and worked from before sunrise to after sunset.
Although many of the home children were treated very poorly, neglected, and mentally and physically abused, many others did experience better lives. Some were welcomed as one of the family and were loved and nurtured. Most of these children drew on their outstanding courage, strength, and perseverance and went on to lead healthy and productive lives. They contributed to the growth and development of Canada, with many British home children enlisting in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
In my opinion, and that of thousands of Canadians right across this wonderful country, the Government of Canada should undertake whatever means it has at its disposal to help preserve and highlight this important part of our history. Passing this motion will be a small step in making that mission come to pass.
I have had the honour of sponsoring this motion. When I first heard about this wonderful cause, I researched it, in part, and was intrigued. As I watched the wonderful film this afternoon by my new friend, Eleanor McGrath, everyone in the room was very emotional. Many of us were made tearful by this wonderful documentary.
When we look at the suffering and strength of these wonderful people, we have to honour them by remembering them on one day each year. Therefore, I urge all my colleagues from every side of this House to lend their support to my motion to ensure that the stories and the names of the British home children are forever ingrained in the story of Canada.
I thank the descendants of the British home children for bringing this to our attention here in Parliament.