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Celebrating history: Ontario honours first British Home Child Day, Sept 28

British Home Child Day was celebrated for the first time on September 28th at Upper Canada Village (UCV) with a full day of activities, including presentations, skits, readings, displays, bagpipes and more.

An historical overview from the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration webstie outlines why this period of our history is important.

“Home Children quietly helped build our country and their many descendants continue to do so today. Yet the migration of British children to Canada is a little-known chapter of Canada’s immigration and social history.”

“Between 1869 and the late 1940s, British religious and philanthropic organizations transported about 100,000 children to Canada to live with Canadian families and work as farm labourers or domestic servants.” 

“In Canada, the children would become known as Home Children, as the institutions from which many of them came were known as Homes. The best-known, Barnardo’s Homes, sent approximately 30,000 children to Canada, 70 percent of them boys.”

A Native Red Maple tree and a plaque donated by Jim Brownell, MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry were unveiled in an afternoon ceremony at Aultsville Station complete with the sounds of bagpipes.

In a release by Brownell, he stated: “Over the years, we shall watch the growth of this tree, just as the descendents of these British Home Children have grown and multiplied, and have contributed, in countless and significant ways, to the social and economic fibre of Ontario’s communities.”

Carolyn Goddard, chairperson for the British Home Child Day Committee of SD&G, (BHCDC)got things underway with a short reading from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, where Rachel Lynde is discussing the horrors of orphan children to Marilla Cuthbert. Marilla’s brother Matthew was, at the time, on his way to the station to collect the new addition to their family.

Tom Brownell, secretary for the BHCDC, spoke next about his brother Jim’s efforts and eventual victory in making September 28th officially British Home Child Day in Ontario with the passing of Bill 185.

Brownell explained the significance of the September date: “Mary Scott Pearson (Brownell’s grandmother) stepped off the boat in Halifax 120 years ago today.”

Brownell also informed the crowd that Nova Scotia had just passed a bill making September 28 British Home Child Day there as well.

He told the crowd that an “important part of this story that deserves to be told” is how these children were “susceptible to mistreatment” because they weren’t closely monitored by the organizations that sent them.

He went on to say that while they did endure hardships, many also “went on to lead proud lives. Almost all who came to Canada remained in Canada.”

These children “helped to cultivate our country’s values” as well as fight for our country during the war. 

He concluded saying, the British Home Children are “part of our country’s history, they’re part of our past, and their descendents are part of our future.”

Chairman for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission Ron Eamer and South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds each took turns speaking before the introduction of Leeds and Grenville MPP Steve Clark.

Clark dedicated the tree and unveiled the plaque in place of Jim Brownell who was unable to attend the event. He  began by saying, “just the fact that we’re here deserves applause.”

He went on to detail the long road leading to this day saying that “private member’s bills rarely get passed.”

Most significantly, Clark is proud of the fact that he, Brownell and Parkdale-Highpark MPP Cheri DiNovo, “the three parties have gotten together to get this bill passed – putting politics aside and doing something good for the province of Ontario.”

Clark informed the crowd that Brockville was the “location of one of the receiving homes,” Fairknowe Home. This home, still standing in Brockville today, was originally built by William Quarrier of Scotland for the purpose of receiving “his” children from Scotland.

Clark went on to talk about the discovery that his wife’s paternal grandfather, Sidney Roberts, was a Home Child with “a story much the same as Mary Scott Pearson.”

Following the tree and plaque dedication, a vignette, “Arrival of British Home Children, Aultsville Train Station” was performed by Dave Hanson, Tyler Konick, Faith McCrae and Shannon McCrae.

There were eight other vignettes to follow at different locations throughout UCV detailing different time periods and experiences of British Home Children.

The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa was set up in the Harvest Barn with an abundance of pictures, books, articles, and artifacts detailing the history of the British Home Children. Many were on hand to talk, educate, and share stories.

Sandra Joyce, whose father came to Canada from Scotland in 1925 as a Home Child, launched her new book “The Street Arab – A British Home Child Story” with two scheduled readings at the Village Store.

Rounding out the day was the Just Kiddin’ Theatre from Metcalfe who performed on the Cook’s Tavern verandah. “

According to their website: “Just Kiddin’ Theatre is a volunteer organization that delivers dramatic arts to students in Ottawa’s rural South.  The program is based on the belief that enrichment of the arts is not only a fun and enjoyable experience but presents opportunity to develop skills that will positively impact students for the rest of their lives.”

Immediately following the performance, guests with dinner reservations made their way to Willard’s Hotel, where they were welcomed with bagpipe melody.

Throughout the day it was said by many – time and again – that British Home Child Day will forever be an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate the courage and perseverance of the British Home Children who triumphed over adversity.


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Seaway District High School welcomes new vice principal

Karen Bryan, new vice principal at Seaway District High School, was able to come to Iroquois in July, getting to know many of the school’s teaching and support staff and learning how the grades 7-12 school works. 

That opportunity has gone a long way towards making her feel comfortable and welcome at SDHS as the 2011-12 term begins.

“Students have been very welcoming, creating a friendly atmosphere,” vice principal Bryan said. “And the staff here is wonderful, student focussed and student centred. Since I arrived, I’ve also had a lot of communications with parents, and I am very pleased with the level of parental involvement at Seaway.”

Mother of three boys, Bryan, who shares administrative duties with Seaway principal Terry Gardiner, enjoys the idea that she is working in a multi-generational high school.
“Many of the parents of our children have also gone to Seaway, and many have played on school teams and worked on projects with the school. As a result the school is a vital part of this entire community.”

A graduate of General Vanier in Cornwall, with an honours degree from Queen’s University and teacher training from the University of Toronto, Bryan began her career with UCDSB, prior to 2004, in the (no longer) capital region. 

“I worked with teachers from grades 7-12 on instructional practice and curriculum design in all subject areas. In 2006, this job moved to the board level where I began working with all board members in the areas of literacy and numeracy mandates. The focus was on classroom instruction and success initiatives.”

After 2007, she served as a learning resource coach at St. Lawrence and C.C.V.S. “We worked with teachers in helping students meet I.E.P. requirements by examining learning mod-ifications. We essentially trained teachers to go back to their classrooms and carry on what they learned.”

Before her involvement in these fields, Bryan served as a classroom teacher in Toronto and at North Dundas District High School, in the fields of mathematics and physical education.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Bryan said. “I think it was the influence of some of the awesome teachers I had growing up. I think I experienced early on  examples of what a good teacher can be in a child’s life.”

Some time spent teaching at R-O, a kindergarten to grade 12 school, has, Bryan feels, prepared her for the combination of intermediate and high school. 

She is getting a feel for the needs and priorities of Seaway. But there are some programs she hopes may be introduced at the school down the line.

“I would like to introduce after school programs, especially for grades 7-9, which combine a literacy and numeracy component, but also offer fitness and nutrition experiences for the students. Many kids wouldn’t mind staying after school for interesting programs they could benefit from.”

She senses a good feeling at Seaway built on strong connections between 7-9 teachers spanning programs and procedures. “I want to keep both high school and intermediate panels working together. 

We are working with teachers as ‘instructional leaders’, not as ‘managers’, which is a board wide initiative. I am an authority figure in the school, but I am also a teacher. I see a lot of willingness in this staff to collaborate in this approach.”

Bryan strongly feels that public education must be maintained as accessible to all children. Every child can learn and brings skills to the table. “We must value all the paths our children choose whether they choose to go on to higher education, or to learn in the world of work. Each path must be valued equally.” 


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High School development leaves Helping Hand mission

The final notice has been received and the Helping Hand, a mission of the Pentecostal Church, has until October 17th to vacate its location in the old Morrisburg High School, where it has been a source of clothing for those in need for the past 11 years.

Unfortunate, but true, the Helping Hand used clothing depot, answers a very big need in South Dundas and the surrounding area with an average of 2000-2,500 visitors benefiting from it each year.

The fact that the Helping Hand has to vacate is not a surprise as they were put on notice way back in 2009, that they were in their location on a monthly basis. With the upcoming renovation to the historic high school building to house an expansion to the St. Lawrence Medical and the South Dundas Municipal offices, the monthly basis has ended and the Helping Hand is closing.

The problem is that since they were put on notice of the eventual loss of their location they have been unable to find a new location that would be rent-free, or at the very least, very cheap.

“We have a lot of people not happy about it,” says Pentecostal minister, Rev. Duncan Perry.  “But we can’t afford to go somewhere else. We have a couple thousand dollars (donations) a year coming in, but that is not enough to rent.”