Canada has no plans to follow the Australian government and issue an apology for its role in the child migrant programs that shipped as many as 150,000 poor British children to Canada, Australia and other former colonies, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.
"This is not something that has really been on the radar screen. I haven't in my 12 years as an MP heard anyone ask for that," Kenney said Monday. "Obviously, this is a British policy and the British government is going to take its own decision in that respect. I believe the experience here was different than that in Australia."Kenney said the difference between Australia and Canada is that in Australia, it has been an issue of long-standing public interest.
On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for his country's role in the child migrant programs. The British government said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown would apologize next year.
"Canadians don't expect their government to apologize for every sad event in our history," Kenney told reporters. "We have laid out some criteria for that, and the reality is we haven't seen a demand or an expectation for that."
Kenney said Canada is taking measures to recognize "that sad period," which includes a parliamentary motion to declare 2010 the year of the home child, Canada Post issuing home child stamps and the Pier 21 museum recognizing the home children.
The British government has estimated 150,000 children may have been shipped abroad between 1618 — when a group was sent to the Virginia Colony — and 1967, most of them from the late 19th century onward. Many remained poor and were abused, treated simply as cheap labour or ended up in institutions.
About 100,000 children were sent to Canada before the program officially ended in 1939, according to Home Children Canada's website.
Sidney Baker, 76, of Home Children Canada, said he also expects an apology from the Canadian government.
Baker told The Canadian Press that the victims and their families have never asked for compensation from the Canadian government — only an apology.