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Custodial care of Doukhobor children in British Columbia, 1929 to 1933 Hooper, Ronald Henry Clarke

Abstract

In 1932 a total of 365 children of the Doukhobor sect known as Sons of Freedom were taken into custodial care by the provincial government of British Columbia while their parents were undergoing penal servitude. This thesis is a study of that episode in the history of child care in British Columbia. It deals primarily with the problems that were met in administering this emergency child welfare programme. These children were admitted to non-ward care by the Superintendent of Neglected Children and placed in Vancouver, New Westminster and Victoria for a period of one year. The Children's Aid Society of Vancouver cared for 119 children ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years. These children were all placed in approved foster homes by that agency. The Alexandra Orphanage, Vancouver, the Loyal Protestant Home, New Westminster, and the B.C. Protestant Orphans Home, Victoria, cared for a total of 75 children in the age group of 3 to 9 years, within their institutional facilities. The Provincial Industrial School for Girls and the Provincial Industrial School for Boys accepted 75 and 92 children respectively. These children ranged in age from 7 to 18 years and were segregated from the regular inmates who were committed to the industrial schools on authority of the juvenile court. The agency and institutions undertook the immediate responsibility of caring for these children. Physical and emotional well-being were maintained, and the customs and beliefs of the Sons of Freedom were respected wherever possible. Thus, when the children were returned to the Doukhobor colonies no serious problems of re-adjustment were encountered. The parents had been penalized for their refusal to recognize man-made laws, and the provincial authorities hoped that these placements would serve to instruct the children in the rights and obligations of Canadian citizenship. In this the experiment was ineffective. If the agency and institutions had seriously endearoured to re-educate the children, emotional conflicts would have arisen when the Doukhobor families were re-united. The children would have been torn between their desire to conform to the wishes and beliefs of their parents and to their newly acquired ideologies.

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