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Child immigrants to the "edge of empire" : Fairbridge child migrants and British Columbia's quest for the construction of the "white man's province" Vallance, Daniel

Abstract

Beginning in the 1860s British children participated in migration schemes to Canada. Philanthropists, motivated by evangelical beliefs and despair at the state of childhood for homeless and dependent children in Britain, would send 80,000 British boys and girls to Canada between 1867 and 1929. Placed with Canadian families in rural communities, the schemes directed these children toward lives as farm labourers and housewives. By the 1920s, rampant opposition to these child migration schemes in central and eastern Canada brought about their termination. Opponents of child migration, mobilized the language of eugenics to condemn the children sent to Canada as “degenerate castoffs” of British society, and argued that the children were beyond saving and posed a threat to Canadian society. This was not the end of child migration to Canada, however, for in 1935 the Fairbridge Society, a rescue organization, opened the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School in British Columbia. This final scheme would see 329 children sent to British Columbia before its demise in 1950. The earlier period of child migration to Canada, 1860 to 1929, has received the majority of scholarly attention with the recommencement in 1935 often overlooked. This thesis examines how the Fairbridge Farm School at Cowichan Station was able to open and operate in British Columbia without popular opposition by exploring how British Columbian constructions of whiteness were projected onto and internalized by the operators of the Farm School and its children, and in doing this incorporate the Fairbridge Farm School into the larger narrative of child migration to Canada.

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