The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939

The Golden Bridge
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Courtesy of Frank Kohli. Even though the government placed a great importance on the immigration of these young people, the Canadian public did not always see it in the same light and some negative impressions were formed.

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The stigma attached to these children came through no fault of the children, but rather from the ignorance of the Canadian population of the time. Children were scattered across Canada by the thousands much as one would sow a field of wheat and, while the yield was plentiful, it was not without its problems.

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In , when young queen victoria ascended the throne of Britain, she inherited a nation in the throes of transition. Industrialization and innovations in transportation were changing the face of the country and old ties to the land were quickly disappearing. Cottage industries were replaced by mechanized factories and, as the need for agricultural workers declined, a population shift took place.

Cities were bursting at the seams as populations grew faster than resources could manage. From her penal laws, to education, to sanitation, and the everyday way of life, Britain was in desperate need of reform. They swarmed the streets, they gamboled in the gutters, they haunted the markets in search of cast-away food; they made playgrounds of the open spaces; they lurked under porches of public buildings in hot weather; and they crept into stables or under arches for their nights lodging.

They lived as the pariah dog lives, and were treated much in the same way; everybody exclaimed against the nuisance, but nobody felt it to be his business to interfere. As industries developed and mechanized, rural inhabitants in search of work moved to the cities. This influx of humanity into the cities of nineteenth-century Britain created situations hard for many today to imagine. Cities swelled with populations doubling, tripling, or in some cases increasing by as much as tenfold in as little as ten years. Victorian attitudes towards children were vastly different from those of today.

Childhood, it was said, was a time of preparation for adulthood, for work and responsibility. A father with children could be refused parish relief if it was felt that the children could help support the family. Many families could not afford having a mouth to feed that did not pay its way. There were precious few schools for the masses to attend and even less opportunity to consider the luxury of an education.

For many, just keeping food on their table, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs was a daily struggle. As Shaftesbury started his work for reform he became acutely aware of the desperate situation in London:. He found, in some cases, hundreds of human beings — equal to the population of a whole village — compressed and hidden in a dozen small and wretched houses packed in a court, the houses and court occupying less than the area of a good-sized barn, or a village church, or a moderate-sized emigrant ship.

London was not the only city in the British Isles faced with the problems of overpopulation. Liverpool, being a major port of entry for many Irish fleeing starvation, also saw its population skyrocket. Other centres such as Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol found themselves in similar situations. In and , the streets of many cities in England and Scotland were overrun by Irish driven from their homes in search of food.

In January of the Mendicity Society, a Roman Catholic charity, had 18, applications for assistance from Irish families who had been in London less than a year.

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The exclamation of delight and the happy faces were pleasant to behold as each was handed a gift and it made one's heart rejoice to hear the happy childish speeches and see the look on their faces and it did not end with the orphan children of the home, but was taken up by old and young of the invited guests, over 50 in number, and each and every one had some token of remembrance presented to them by Misses Dunn and Row. Using the Library. Enter search query Clear Text. Yes No. Catalogue Browse Browse, collapsed Browse. This long history of compulsory migration ended in when post-war child migration drew to a close.

Children from lower-class families were sent out to work in mines, brickyards, woollen mills and factories of all kinds from the time they were very young. Children were a source of income and so were put to work as soon as possible to add even a few pence to the meagre family income. Children were employed as farm labourers, chimney sweeps, rag pickers, matchbox-makers and beggars. Small children were sent into cold, dark mine shafts in places where men could not fit or into woollen mills where they could scurry under equipment, like rats along the floor, to change bobbins, collect waste and check machinery.

Children of suitable size were often stolen, sold by parents, or obtained from workhouses and apprenticed to chimney sweeps where they were forced up chimneys to clean them, sometimes becoming wedged in the bends and dying of asphyxiation, or eventually succumbing to work-related disease. Children were purposely mutilated and then used as beggars to invoke the sympathy and charity of passers-by.

Thousands lived in ditches, under bridges, or in flop houses for a penny a night.

In this street [New Cut], crowded at night — on Saturday night it is almost impassable — children of a tender age may be seen begging for coppers [pennies] and soliciting assistance from those of more mature years, but to the full as wretched as themselves. Vice is in every glance of their eyes. Crime has already made its graven lines in their young faces, and their dialect is a combination of uncouth sounds, obscene imagery, and slang corruptions of the English tongue. Kirwan reports seeing children with small bags made from the material used in potato sacks, collecting cigar ends and crusts of bread from ash heaps and dust bins.

Others collected leather bits and pieces of old shoes and sold them to the used shoe dealers who repaired them and resold them. There were those who hunted the sewers although forbidden by law to find coins, jewellery, iron, rope, metal and other items which could be sold, while the mud-larks collected items from the mud of the riverbanks when the tide was out.

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Still others devoted their efforts to dog-selling stating that [d]og stealing among professionals is looked upon as a noble science, and deserving of long and arduous practice. Legislation was passed at various times to improve the working conditions of children. The Restriction of Hours Act was passed to reduce the number of hours children worked to 12 hours a day exclusive of meals with no night work allowed. Previously, some children worked as many as 16 or 18 hours per day, in shifts, so that as one child tumbled from bed another would crawl, totally exhausted, into it.

Legislation for better clothing and food was also sought, but this act did not address these issues and only applied to children working in cotton factories. By , no child under the age of nine years was allowed to work in a cotton factory and those under 16 were restricted to hour days, exclusive of meals.

source url By , the cotton factories could not have a child under 18 years of age work more than 69 hours in a week and night work was prohibited in specified departments. The Ten Hours Bill of , which tried to reduce working hours to 10 in a day, received great opposition, since the gentlemen who voted on these bills were, in many cases, the owners or investors in the businesses affected.

This bill was followed in by the Factory Act a watered-down version of the Ten Hours Bill which was implemented gradually. The Factory Act Amendment Bill stated that no child was to work in more than one factory in a day and that two hours of schooling each day were to be provided for the children. The fact that this act had to be passed at all suggests that many factory owners were finding ways around the earlier legislation or around the inspectors sent out to see that they complied with the law.

The dangerous childhood jobs of the chimney sweeps and miners were affected by the passing of several different acts. First, in , an act to restrict the age of a chimney sweep to 10 years or older was passed. There was also a need to state that no child could be sent up a chimney which was on fire, for the purpose of extinguishing it. Also, regulations were established as to the size of a chimney a child could clean 14 inches by 9 inches minimum.

In , an act was passed which forbade anyone under 21 years of age to ascend or descend a chimney for the purpose of cleaning it and restricted the age of apprentices to 16 years and older. But, it was not until that legislation finally restricted the use of children for the purpose of cleaning a chimney.

The Collieries Bill was passed to protect children, as young as four years of age, who were working in mines 12 to 14 hours a day and who often never saw the light of day except on Sunday. Sometimes they would work 36 hours continuously.

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A Royal Commission was set up to investigate the mining situation; in , it presented a report which shocked many. The horror stories of children naked and beaten working in the mines were told to members of the Commission and documented in its report. As a result of the report, the Mines Act of restricted the employment of children going underground to the age of ten. Single mothers, often having no alternatives, took their infants to work with them.

There are reports of infants being drugged to prevent them from crying. As one observer noted, It is necessary first to get rid of some hundred, or even some thousand, people. So they are turned out, commonly by pick and crowbar, and no one asks where they go. For example, if one entered Soho, bordering on St.

So little light and air can penetrate into these rookeries, that the people may well prefer sitting out on the curbstone, with their feet in the gutter. There was frequently no window, so that light and air could gain access only by the door, the top of which was often no higher than the pavement, so that the cellars were dark and ventilation was out of the question.

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The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada, [Marjorie Kohli, J.A. David Lorente] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Editorial Reviews. Review. "To thousands of young people, emigration has been the golden bridge by which they have passed from an apparently hopeless.

They were generally damp from defective drainage. There was sometimes a back cellar, used as a sleeping apartment, and, having no direct communication with the external atmosphere, deriving its scanty supply of air and light solely from the door of the front apartment. The whole of the cellar population were absolutely without out-offices [bathrooms] or place of deposit for their refuse matter. Water was hard to come by and, in some parts of Liverpool, the water was turned on for only short periods of time each day.

London was no better even though a few progressive citizens had fought for years to have a decent water system installed but to no avail.

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Since gin alcohol was cheap, drinking was a major problem among the poor. Parents sent their children into the streets to beg in order that they might buy their gin. Some children were purposely maimed to attract all the more sympathy from the passersby. Others were trained to pick pockets or rob houses so their parents could obtain the necessary funds to feed their habit.

To make matters even worse, many very young children also drank the gin and became addicted at an early age. Liverpool, in , records 22, arrests for drunkenness in a population of , It was the duty of the parish wardens to see that the children were was cared for and in many cases this led to a child being indentured or apprenticed to some tradesman.

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Shaftesbury observed:. Under the Apprentice System bargains were made between the churchwardens and overseers of parishes and the owners of factories, and the pauper children — some as young as five years old — were bound to serve until they were twenty-one. This apprentice system gave rise to workhouse-clearing men who had the job of binding or placing pauper children out as apprentices. Many of the children in the larger cities, such as London and Liverpool, were moved north to the big industrial centres.

As early as this was seen as reprehensible as illustrated in this poem by George Crabbe. Reports from the Old Bailey trials show that these children were treated very badly. Many were victims of murder, manslaughter, assault and rape and although legislation had been passed in providing for the punishment of masters who ill treated apprentices few children knew of this or had courage or opportunity to invoke it.