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Mr. Trump won the election. I hope I can repeat the same thing because once again, the people want to be in charge again. It’s not only America first. It’s also Holland first and that’s what I tried to accomplish.
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Even before Donald Trump was campaigning to make America great again, Geert Wilders was an incendiary politician on the far-right fringe of Dutch politics. But as voters in the Netherlands go to the polls today, his party of freedom is no longer on the fringe. It isn’t clear he can win enough votes to win a coalition government, but with a campaign platform to ban immigrants from Muslim countries, close mosques, ban the Quran, pull out of the EU and close borders, Geert Wilders has already shifted the political conversation in his country. In a moment, we’re looking at his influence in Holland and beyond those borders he’d like to close. Also today, she awoke in the back of a cab and realized she was being sexually assaulted.
People asked me, “Why didn’t you just get out of the taxi?” Part of it is, I didn’t know where I was and I wanted to get home and be safe. And I had no idea what he would do to me.
AMT: It was about a decade ago she reported it to police. The driver was convicted. She makes a point of talking about it still because she believes it happens more than we realize. There are no official statistics but over the last decade, similar cases have been in the news in cities across the country. In half an hour, we’re asking about concerns over safety with paid drivers. And she was just a little girl in England thinking she was going on an adventure.
I remember it was the 27th of June that we left from Liverpool. We thought it was going to be wonderful of course, coming to Canada, because we had heard so many stories about it.
AMT: In fact, she was one of countless children take from their families, beaten, exploited, sent to Canada by the British government with the agreement of the Canadian government. The story of Canada’s so-called “empire children” in an hour. I’m Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.Back To Top »
Dutch election a test for right-wing populism in Europe
Guests: Margaret Evans, Saida Derrazi, Joost van Spanje
Look at the Islamization of our country, the Moroccan scum in Holland. And once again, not all are scum, but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who makes the streets unsafe. Is this the Netherlands that we want to have in every street, in every city in the next decades? I don't think so. We want to stay free.
AMT: Well, that's the kind of anti-Islamic message that has made Geert Wilders one of Europe's most controversial politicians. It also make him influential today as the people of the Netherlands go to the polls. Mr. Wilders, who leads the far-right party of freedom, has been called the Dutch Donald Trump. Both politicians share an anti-immigrant, nationalist message, a fondness for controversial tweets, even outlandish hairdos. The Dutch parliamentary system is built on coalitions, so Mr. Wilders is unlikely to emerge as his country's leader today. But people across Europe and the world are watching this vote closely, as a potential bellwether of votes in France and Germany later this year. For the latest, I'm joined by the CBC's Margaret Evans in Amsterdam. Hello.
MARGARET EVANS: Hi, Anna Maria.
AMT: What’s the mood like as polling is underway today?
MARGARET EVANS: I think it’s confused. There are a lot of people who are still very undecided and as you mentioned, it’s because there’s such a big political landscape. Coalition politics is the name of the game in the Netherlands and there are 28 parties to choose from. And a lot of them, Geert Wilders’ party included, are kind of in the 16 to 24 [unintelligible] mark, and so people are trying to vote strategically. There isn’t a huge kind of, sort of two horse race, if you like and people are very aware of the fact that everybody from the outside is watching and are kind of making a lot of assumptions about the Netherlands. And one of them is the way in which they view Geert Wilders because he’s new to a lot of people outside of the Netherlands, but he’s been in Dutch politics for nearly 20 years. He’s been a parliamentarian. So this phenomenon is not new.
AMT: And as you point out, Geert Wilders has been around saying a lot of what we heard at the top there for years. But he has, in this campaign, concentrated on Muslim immigrants. What’s he vowing to do?
MARGARET EVANS: Well, what’s he not vowing to do? He says he wants to close down the mosques. He will stop immigration to the country. He tends to differentiate between what he calls Western immigration and Muslim immigration. It’s hard to know exactly what he’s going to do because he released his manifesto on a single piece of paper. But those are the kinds of big broad strokes that he says he will achieve, including leading the Netherlands out of the European Union. He’s very, very incendiary. He has referred to the Quran as Mein Kampf. It’s very, very hot language.
AMT: And who are his supporters, Margaret?
MARGARET EVANS: The thing that’s very different about Wilders is that he is of course very representative of a certain kind of Dutch—liberalism. He supports gay rights, equality for women. He is in favour of legalized prostitution, of legalized marijuana, all those things that we think about the city that I’m sitting and talking to you from. But other Liberals in Dutch society say he just uses those issues as a mask to hide, at the basis, what is fundamentally racism. But it does draw in people who say well yes, these are important values to me. I want to keep this kind of very, very relaxed liberal society. It’s hard sometimes for people to differentiate and say wait a minute, that doesn’t mean I want to keep all foreigners out. Because of course, the Netherlands is known from the Golden Age of being a very outward-looking country, trade routes around the world and religious tolerance and ideas about equality for minorities were kind of born in that age here in the Netherlands.
AMT: And in fact, other politicians have sort of embraced that ideal that you’re talking about. But even that is shifting a bit, is it not?
MARGARET EVANS: I think so. I was out with some Dutch friends of mine for dinner before I came over or started working, and was just asking them how they felt about things. And they were a wide political spectrum, but they said the thing that really bothers them is that there hasn’t been another candidate who’s really been able to wrest the agenda away from Wilders, even though everybody knows he’s not going to be prime minister because it’s unlikely he’ll get any coalition partners even if he did win the most seats. The only other politician that has managed to kind of get a bit of momentum on that front is the leader of the Green Left, and he’s the young politician who is compared actually to Justin Trudeau because he’s got curly hair. But he is the son of a Moroccan immigrant and an Indonesian mother and is very pro kind of let in the immigrants, let’s have a more positive dialogue. Because it’s been a very, very negative campaign here and I think people are dejected by that, the tone of the debate and seeing so many people shift to the right because they’re worried that Wilders is getting more publicity. He’s kind of very much a media savvy kind of guy.
AMT: How is he faring against the current prime minister, Mark Rutte?
MARGARET EVANS: Well, it’s interesting because as you know, we’ve had this spat that’s been going on between Turkey and the Netherlands, in which Turkey wanted to send ministers over to the Netherlands to campaign for this referendum they’ve got coming up, which would give greater powers to their president. Mark Rutte said no, that’s not happening. It will create tensions within the Turkish community here. They actually banned ministers from a NATO partnered country from coming in. That of course played into the hands of Geert Wilders because he said this is proof that they don’t care. They’re more interested in Turkish politics. They can’t integrate. They shouldn’t be here, these Turkish expatriates. But Rutte has been very, very firm and that’s actually bumped up his numbers as well. People are saying he’s strong, he’s showing them he’s not just going to give in. So coupled with his own shift in language which has been much more aggressive towards immigrants, sort of “If you don’t like the way it is here, you shouldn’t come or you should leave”. So all of that’s playing in his favour as well which has made it maybe a slightly less certain race than it was even a week ago.
AMT: Okay, Margaret. Well, we’ll keep watching and we’ll follow your reports on this. Thank you.
MARGARET EVANS: It’s a pleasure, Anna Maria.
AMT: Margaret Evans, CBC’s foreign correspondent based in London. We reached her in Amsterdam today. Saida Derrazi has seen up close the implications of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that Mr. Wilders likes to expose. The Dutch-born human rights activist is a Muslim. She is of Moroccan descent. She says life has become more difficult for minorities in the Netherlands over the last several years. Saida Derrazi is in Amsterdam. Hello.
SAIDA DERRAZI: Hello.
AMT: We heard that clip of Geert Wilders calling Moroccans scum off the top of our program. What was your reaction when you first heard him say things like that?
SAIDA DERRAZI: Well, Mr. Wilders, he is already having his one-man party for 12 years right now. And actually, the most popular people that he names are the Moroccan people. So to me, it was not really a surprise that he again tried to use the Moroccan people who have been here for almost 20 years in Holland. So it was actually very funny to me. You know, because he uses the whole every time the same rhetoric. So it was not new.
AMT: You were born in Holland. What was it like growing up as a Muslim and someone who is a visible minority?
SAIDA DERRAZI: I feel like a Dutch person because since I’ve been born here, my language is also more Dutch than I speak Arabic, although also my identity is Moroccan. Unfortunately since the attacks on 9/11, we experienced lots of different climate than before the attacks. Before attacks, it was all like the happy part of life. After the attacks, you found out that the climate over here in Holland—and not only in Holland, I think it’s probably all over the world—changed towards Muslims.
AMT: Are there particular incidents that stick out in your mind that you remember, realizing how suddenly you were seen as the other?
SAIDA DERRAZI: Yeah. One time I was doing grocery shopping in supermarket and I was waiting in line. Then suddenly a woman came out and she was standing in front of me. I looked at her and she said I am privileged. I am going to stand in front of you. I said I’m sorry? She said yes, people like you, those are the people who make it all worse over here. You know? I said I’m born and raised in Holland and I had the same, probably the same education and maybe even more than you did. She said well yeah, maybe that’s so, but your people are the ones who make it worse over here in Holland. The Moroccans and all other people came also including this conversation and they were also attacking me with words and then I felt very sad and left my groceries and I walked out of the supermarket. So that was not so nice.
AMT: How emblematic is what you went through? You must hear stories like that from others then, huh?
SAIDA DERRAZI: Yeah. You hear it in family. You hear it from friends. And I also am a member of the Dutch Collective Against Islamophobia and from the collective, we started a hotline because we heard about lots of the same, similar experiences. This is what’s happening in Holland. The Muslim people are not safe and they are being very attacked and that comes because of the polarization that the government and also like for example, now in the elections.
AMT: Do you still feel at home in the Netherlands given all of this?
SAIDA DERRAZI: Yeah, I do because for me, I’ve been born and raised in Holland and this is my country. I love Holland and although all the things that are happening against Muslims. And that’s why I became a human rights activist because I believe that we have to do and make this sickness away and that it becomes a healthy country again like it was, you know?
AMT: Okay. Well, Saida Derrazi, thank you for speaking with me.
SAIDA DERRAZI: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
AMT: Saida Derrazi is a Dutch-born citizen of Moroccan descent. She is a Muslim. She is also a human rights activist. We reached her in Amsterdam. No matter what the result of today's vote in the Netherlands, this election campaign and the rhetoric that it has stirred up seems to have changed the country. Joost van Spanje is an associate professor of political communication at the University of Amsterdam and that's where we've reached him. Hello.
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Hello. Hi.
AMT: How much has Geert Wilders changed the political landscape in the Netherlands?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Well, I think there has been quite an indirect impact. So a lot of other parties have actually repositioned themselves on immigration and integration, basically taking over part of Geert Wilders’ rhetoric and that is the big change.
AMT: And that is because they see he has support on that front, I guess.
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Yes. There are four studies suggesting that this is happening in various Western European countries—the anti-immigration party success precedes the repositioning of other parties, of mainstream parties on immigration. And that is also what is happening right now in the Netherlands.
AMT: And so what is motivating his supporters? Who are they?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: There's only one thing that really clearly stands out when describing PVV voters—voters for his party—and that is education. More lower educated people tend to be overrepresented in the PVV vote.
AMT: What about economics? Is that a factor?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: It is a factor but the overriding factor when talking about people why they vote for Geert Wilders, why PVV, is immigration. Immigration, integration, wanting to close the borders, wanting to have immigrants assimilate into Dutch society. It is also in research, cultural factors trump economic factors in that.
AMT: And I know you're using Trump in a different way but do you see any parallels in what happened in the States and the supporters of Donald Trump to the supporters who are influencing the conversation now in the Netherlands?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Oh yeah, definitely. What you see in your neighbouring country is that a lot of voters voted for Trump because of illegal immigrants, for example in the US. Brexit, you also saw that in the UK. Immigration was a large factor. In France, Marine Le Pen and now also here in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders. The main red thread is anti-immigration stances.
AMT: And he's been around for a number of years. He hasn't just popped up now though. Our last guest talked about how things changed after 9/11. When did you see the shift in attitudes?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Well, what we see is there's two things. There's positions, criticism of multicultural ideal and there we have seen since we have started measuring in 1994, there is a large minority of the Dutch electorate very, very critical of the multicultural society. So that has not really changed. It has already been there for a long, long time, as in many other countries in Western Europe. But what has changed is the salience, the importance—the perceived importance of immigration issues in the eyes of voters. And 9/11 of course did a lot for that, the 2002 elections in the Netherlands and now Geert Wilders is doing everything he can to make immigration terrorism as important as possible because he gains from that.
AMT: In there as well, the world noticed when Theo van Gogh was murdered because of his anti-Islamic rhetoric. That played into it as well, right?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: It had a really, really big impact here in the Netherlands. In 2004, Theo van Gogh, a film director was killed on the streets here in Amsterdam by a Muslim fundamentalist. Yeah. That obviously made a lot of people very, very scared. And the same year Geert Wilders split from the main conservative party and went his own way and started his own party with a lot of success in 2006 to 2010 and now again.
AMT: So a nation that had been very open and welcoming to other religions and other cultures suddenly was in this huge debate because of the actions of—again, very polarized discussion on both sides.
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah. So what we're seeing is already quite a negative stance towards immigration and a multicultural society since a long time, even if the Netherlands is traditionally a very welcoming country. But this fire has really flared up after 2001 after 9/11, 2004 the murder of Theo van Gogh. Geert Wilders is trying to exploit these anti-immigration fears to their maximum and that gives for a very nasty discussion as well here.
AMT: This has been called Europe's year of political reckoning, with elections in France, Germany, possibly Italy. How much can Mr. Wilders’ success or his lack of it, his very presence, his very campaign style, what he's done so far, affect outcomes or predict outcomes in the rest of Europe?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Right. So I started by saying there is a large indirect effect of all kinds of factors but also of the electoral success of Geert Wilders clearly influencing other political parties, clearly influencing this debate. It has turned very grim. However, his direct effect is very small because of two reasons. One is well, in the latest polls, [unintelligible] polls, our Nate Silver, 14 per cent only. So six out of seven people who are expected to turn out today are predicted to not vote for Geert Wilders. And the second one is that he will be on the side because he will not be able to govern. He will not be able to cooperate with any of the main political parties. So he will not be able to deliver to his voters whatever he chooses to promise.
AMT: But he has legitimized a conversation that wasn't happening earlier, hasn't he?
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Yeah. That's for sure, yeah. And we might also see that happening in France. We have already seen that and quite possibly so, also in September in Germany more and more so. Yes.
AMT: Okay. Well, Professor Van Spanje, thank you for speaking with me today.
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Okay. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. And yeah. We will see today what is going to happen here in this country.
AMT: Okay. Thank you so much. Bye-bye.
JOOST VAN SPANJE: Thanks. Bye.
AMT: Joost van Spanje is an associate professor of political communication at the University of Amsterdam. We reached him in Amsterdam. Stay with us. The news is next and then, when hopping in a taxi after a night out is not necessarily a safe thing to do. This has been a discussion that's been going on for more than a week in this country and we're looking at the incidence of sexual assaults in taxis across the country. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.Back To Top »
Woman sexually assaulted in a cab says it happens more than we think
Guests: Woman, Rita Smith, Farrah Khan
AMT: Hello. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
AMT: Still to come, tens of thousands of mostly poor British children were shipped off to work on the farms of Commonwealth countries including Canada, in a program described as a way to give them a better life. But for too many, what they encountered was abuse and neglect. Stories of the Empire children in their own words. In half an hour. But first, hailing a ride and hoping for the best.
GROUP OF PROTESTERS: [Chanting] What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.
PROTESTER: We were angry. We were angry, angry women and we're just so tired of things like this happening.
GROUP OF PROTESTERS: [Chanting] Justice. When do we want it? Now.
AMT: Anger on the streets of Halifax last week after a judge's comments in the acquittal of a taxi driver. He was accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in his cab. Police arrested the man. When they did arrest the man, the woman was passed out and partially undressed in the cab. His pants were undone. Crown prosecutors say they will be appealing the driver's acquittal. The case sparked discussion about incidents of sexual assault in taxis and it renewed concerns over the legal interpretation of consent. Official statistics do not exist. There are no national or provincial records on such incidents but our search for reports of sexual assaults of riders by cab drivers—both allegations and convictions—shows incidents across the country. Between 2009 and 2011, 12 women in Winnipeg reported sexual assaults by cab drivers. In Montreal in 2014, police were investigating 17 cases of sexual assaults by cab drivers. Just last year, there were at least nine reported cases in cities including Victoria, Brandon, Toronto and Antigonish. In at least two of those cases, drivers were convicted. My next guest says it's happened to her. We're withholding her name to protect her identity. She's in our Toronto studio. Hello.
AMT: Can you tell me what happened that night?
WOMAN: Yeah. I went out after work with some colleagues for drinks. We ended up staying out quite late. And when it was time for me to go home, we called a taxi. I got into the taxi. I told him where I wanted to go and I had been drinking and it was late, so I fell asleep in the taxi. When I woke up, the taxi had pulled over to the side of the road. I didn't know where we were. I didn't recognize the surroundings and the taxi driver had lifted my sweater and my shirt and my bra and he was kissing me and touching me and slobbering all over my chest and my face. As soon as I woke up, he stopped and I just tried to—I was scared so I just tried to act as normally as I could and he started to drive me home. And when we got to my house, I got out of the taxi. I paid him. And as soon as I got in the door and closed the door, I just started to cry and say that he was touching me and I didn't want him to touch me. So my husband came down and realized that something had happened that was very wrong. So he called the police.
AMT: You paid him the fare.
WOMAN: I did. I did. I was scared and my cell phone was out of batteries. I didn't know where we were. It was in the middle of the night and I just wanted to get out of the situation safely and I didn't want to antagonize him in any way. I didn't say anything even about what he was doing. I just tried to act as if it was normal and I sort of went on autopilot a little bit.
AMT: And it wasn't till you got into the house and closed the door.
AMT: And what happened? Did the police show up?
WOMAN: They did. It was a long process. So it started with two police officers came to our house and initially took my statement. After they left, I think I laid down for a little bit and then got up and realized that nobody had made any arrangements to see if there was any DNA evidence on me. So the first thing we did is we actually drove down to the hospital to see if we could get it done. And then I realized that it was going to be a little bit awkward to walk into the hospital and ask to have them take DNA evidence off me. So he went back home and called the police to ask them if that's something that they wanted to pursue. And then we had to wait quite some time before they finally got back to us and said yes, they would come and take me down to the hospital to get the DNA evidence collected.
AMT: Wait quite some time like how long?
WOMAN: It felt like an extraordinary amount of time to me because I could smell him all over me and I really wanted to have a shower but I just didn't want to destroy any evidence.
AMT: You knew not to have a shower.
WOMAN: I did. I thought so, yeah.
AMT: Yeah. Yeah. You're a lawyer.
WOMAN: I am. So part of you was kicking in that you needed to try this as a lawyer.
WOMAN: To a certain degree. I mean you don't really have your lawyer hat on when you're going through this type of experience. But I was thinking about that type of thing and thinking about you know getting the evidence that they needed. It was important, as it turned out, they didn't charge him until they got the DNA results back which took actually a couple of months. So I was really glad that we did that.
AMT: So you went back to the hospital?
WOMAN: We went to the hospital. Yeah.
AMT: And there was someone who helped with the physical exam.
AMT: What was the conversation at the time? Do you remember?
WOMAN: Well, you know she, I think commended me for reporting it and going through the process and indicated, at least I understood her to be indicating that this was not the first time she had seen this type of incident to take place.
AMT: That it wasn't unusual for someone to be assaulted in a cab.
AMT: How did you react to that?
WOMAN: I was surprised. It had never occurred to me that a taxicab would be a dangerous place for me. Women are always told when you've been out drinking that taking a taxi is the safe way to get home and it's recommended as what you should do. So you go into a taxi and you feel that you are in a safe environment. So the whole thing was incredibly shocking to me and I don't think it's commonly thought of as being a place where you might be at risk.
AMT: What was it like for you to get in a cab after that?
WOMAN: It was hard for a long time. I didn't like taking taxis, not surprisingly. I tried to get a friend to come with me. If I had to take a taxi, I'd often talk to somebody on the telephone while I was in the taxi. I did a lot of things that never occurred to me to do before. You know like look at the badge number of the person and make sure I knew what taxi number I was in and that type of information.
AMT: The cab driver faced criminal charges.
WOMAN: He did. He, at the end of it, was sentenced to 120 days and I believe he was also put on the sexual offenders registry.
AMT: And did you have to press charges or did the police decide to press charges? How did that work?
WOMAN: So the police did that. Initially there were police officers who took my statement then we went to the hospital to get the DNA evidence. And then later that afternoon, I had to go into the police station to give a video statement which was ultimately used in the criminal proceedings. And before I gave the video statement, they took me into a separate room alone with three officers and asked me if I wanted to go through with it and indicated that it was going to be difficult and sort of suggesting that they wanted to know right away if I was willing to really stick through the end of the trial because it would be embarrassing to me. And I remember being a little bit upset or I was quite upset actually about why they thought I should be embarrassed and I didn't react at first. And I said yes, I am prepared to go through with it. But before we left the room, I said to them why do you think I should be embarrassed about what happened to me? Because I didn't do anything wrong. And they had actually assumed because I was out with other men who weren't my husband—they were work colleagues—but they assumed that I had been having some sort of relationship with one of those other men and said that's going to come out and it's, you know, going to be embarrassing to you. And I said well, that's not the case at all and I didn't do anything wrong and I have no reason to be embarrassed. I’m more than happy to go ahead with it.
AMT: That's extraordinary. We hear stories of how difficult it is for women to press charges but what does that say to you?
WOMAN: The police were really actually, apart from that incident, very supportive throughout the whole process. And I think they intended to give me an opportunity to get out and I don't think they realized how offensive that statement was to me. It was a very bad thing to say but I don't think it was meant in any way maliciously.
AMT: When he was convicted, what did the judge say?
WOMAN: Well. the judge rejected his defense which had been that I had attacked him and put my hand in his mouth and transferred his DNA onto my body. She also discussed how my actions seemed understandable, at least on second thought. The fact that I had paid the taxi driver when I got out and I’d actually even tipped him, she commented how that struck her as being unusual and perhaps not the intuitive response that one would expect an individual to have in the situation, but commented on how my evidence that I was just trying to normalize the situation and get out safely made sense on reflection.
AMT: It's interesting because there is an assumption that a woman who is sexually assaulted has only one kind of reaction and the reaction, what we learn with the more women we talk to is that a lot of women try to normalize the situation because they don't know how to react to it. They're trying to process what's happening to them.
WOMAN: Yeah. That was certainly the case with me. And you know people asked me that why didn't you just get out of the taxi or why didn't you start you know screaming or anything like that? And part of it is you're just trying to process what happened. And part of it is you know I didn't know where I was and I wanted to get home and be safe. And I had no idea what he would do to me if I started to react in an aggressive way, given how he'd already treated me.
AMT: You tell your story to people and you have told it because you want people to know.
WOMAN: That's right. That's right. I kind of took the statement or the suggestion from the police to heart. I don't think I have anything to be embarrassed about or ashamed about. And I think that women should feel more comfortable than they do talking about these types of things. I think that will help other people come forward and I think this is an issue that people should be aware of, women in particular.
AMT: Thank you for telling your story.
AMT: My guest, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a taxi driver in Toronto. He was convicted of the crime. We are withholding her name to protect her identity. You are listening to The Current on CBC Radio One, Sirius XM and online on www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Rita Smith is a 30-year veteran of the taxi industry. She has worked as the editor of Taxi News publication. She's a former executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance which represents the taxi industry in Toronto. She currently administers a complaints and compliments line set up by that alliance. Rita Smith joins us from Newcastle, Ontario. Hello.
RITA SMITH: Hello, Anna Maria. Thank you for having me on.
AMT: What goes through your mind when you hear the story we just listened to?
RITA SMITH: That is a horrible incident which never should have occurred. That is just, I am so sorry that it happened and so sorry that your guest lived through what she lived through. That man should have been caught in screening before he was ever allowed to drive a taxi. It's inexcusable and I'm so sorry that that occurred. I am really glad that she pursued it through the courts and I'm sure the whole industry is that nothing will bring change and more rigorous screening to an industry than a lawsuit. We can have politicians talking from now until the cows come home, but something that actually hits home like a successful lawsuit is going to bring more rigorous screening than anything else. And I'll tell you, Anna Maria, nobody wants guys like that out of the industry quicker and more stringently than the cab industry does. Something like this is so bad for everybody who's in the industry to run a successful business, that the fact that that guy was ever allowed to drive is a problem.
AMT: So let me ask you, Rita because since last August you've been administering the complaints line for taxi operators in Toronto. Have you received any complaints about drivers who are sexually inappropriate or aggressive or have assaulted a passenger? Do you get any of those kinds of complaints on that line?
RITA SMITH: In the city of Toronto, I have not received one. I did get a complaint from Mississauga which unfortunately we have no authority there. In Toronto, the complaints line is supported by every single brokerage here in the city. I've never received one in Toronto. When I was running the pilot project before we launched the line on August 24th, so seven months now, I've had complaints but I've never had a sexual assault complaint. Interestingly I got a complaint from the city of Ottawa which once again, I was not in a position to help the woman, who left a wedding very intoxicated, got into a cab, got into the front seat got into a very animated and affectionate conversation with the driver who was Ethiopian. And she had been to Ethiopia so they had lots to talk about. She was shocked when the cab stopped, that he leaned over and kissed her. That really bothered her a lot. And so she contacted me and I would like to be able to say that we could find that driver in Ottawa and let the company know. But it was amazing to me, Anna Maria, that she left a wedding intoxicated, she did not know the company of the cab that she had gotten into. She didn't know the colour of the car, never mind the number of the cab. And the more we talked, I said to her was there a roof light on the car? She couldn't even remember. So it’s like how?
AMT: Well, okay. Let's talk about that because quite frankly, a lot of people take cabs when they're intoxicated because we're so conditioned not to drink and drive. So if somebody is drunk getting in a cab, that's not a big surprise. Shouldn't there be an acceptance of safety? Like what would you do? What would you do then if you got a complaint?
RITA SMITH: And there is. And there is. I’ll tell you the city of Toronto, there is a camera in every car and that is probably why we get very few complaints, if no complaints to me.
AMT: Who gets access to that footage?
RITA SMITH: The police. It belongs to the police.
AMT: Absolutely? No taxi company can withhold it?
RITA SMITH: No, the drivers can’t access it. The police can access it. Yeah. Yeah. So just like statistically to talk about how common this is, as I said in seven months of monitoring the complaints line I haven't received a complaint. Your producer sent me the list of nine complaints that you could find in the last year across the entire nation of Canada. One of them was an Uber driver so I kicked that one out. Statistically, the odds of a woman being assaulted in a cab were 0.0000003.
AMT: Okay. But hang on because in Montreal in 2014, police were investigating 17 cases of sexual assaults. I mean we have seen. So it may look like a small percentage but in Montreal in fact, there was a time when people were really afraid. There were 17 complaints being looked at. We're talking about nationwide that it's not.
RITA SMITH: So just to put it in perspective for you, the largest cab company in Toronto, Beck Taxi, in 2016 answered 10 million calls—10 million in one year. Okay. So the percentage—I'm not saying that these things don't happen and these things never should happen. And the industry is working as hard as it can work with its own screening on top of what the city does, on top of what the police do. About 80 per cent of the cab drivers in Toronto are driving at brokerages where they undergo another entire screening, having to pass to be able to drive vulnerable passengers because they do lots of Wheel-Trans trips and so forth.
AMT: Right. Right. Okay.
RITA SMITH: Like there are there are layers of screening and there are cameras in the car. There should be the most rigorous screening possible and as soon as a driver is found to have a complaint, I'll tell you—every single layer of the taxi industry across the nation is a private sector business. The brokerages are—
AMT: Right. Rita, we're running out of time here so I think you've made your point. But thank you. Thank you very much.
RITA SMITH: That's it?
AMT: We have to end it there. Thank you. Rita Smith, administrator of the complaints and compliments line for the Toronto Taxi Alliance. She's in Newcastle, Ontario. Well, Farrah Khan has been listening to my previous guests. She is the coordinator of Ryerson University's Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education. She's in our Toronto studio. Hello.
FARRAH KHAN: Hello.
AMT: This is an issue in Canada right now because of a ruling in Halifax where a judge, in acquitting a cab driver, said clearly a drunk can consent. So I'm just wondering about your thoughts as you listen to my last two guests in the context of that.
FARRAH KHAN: Well, I first want to say thank you to the survivor who spoke. It was powerful to hear her story. And also I thought it was really salient to hear the piece around what the police said to her and how she responded back, “I do not think I have anything to be embarrassed about.” I thought that was profound. I think it was a little bit nerve racking for me was listening to Rita speak about taxi drivers and just, I feel like sometimes there's a defensiveness of institutions and private sector businesses to talk about the fact that sexual violence is happening in every part of Canada, be it in our police forces, in our schools, in our taxis, in Uber and radio stations. So I think it's something really important to name. And so I think we have to recognize that 460,000 sexual assaults happen every year but less than 10 per cent report. So we're talking about a minuscule number of people reporting to cab companies, to their institutions that they work at. We have to recognize that's in line with actually how many survivors feel safe to say anything.
AMT: And so what has to change?
FARRAH KHAN: Well, I think in this case what I'd like to see is not only people actually having that screening because there's an initial screening, absolutely and there's a criminal reference check within police. There's a police reference check. But I think we also have to talk about the resources put forth to actually do the enforcement of those screenings and not just do screenings every four years. Right? So every four years right now, my understanding for specifically taxi drivers in Toronto is that every four years they have to go through a criminal reference check. I think we need to actually do that every two years. And I think that should be happening for anybody that is working with children, youth and with adults, that are actually having direct contacts. So people coming into your home, people that are doing this kind of work.
AMT: We have also seen municipalities, jurisdictions across the country change regulations because of the advent of Uber as sort of a disruptor. How does that that affect that? There are a lot of people picking people up who are vulnerable right now.
FARRAH KHAN: For me that's really scary because we put together regulations that include training. So I've talked to cab drivers about the training that they receive. They do get some gender sensitivity training. I would love if that training actually included conversations of violence against women workers to actually understand what it is on the ground. But with this deregulation—
AMT: But that’s taxi companies who give that training, not the private.
FARRAH KHAN: Absolutely. And that's what's nerve wracking. And I think you've said something really important is that we've been conditioned to believe that when we are intoxicated or when we need to go home safely and we take a cab or we take an Uber or we take something to get us home. But if that vehicle that takes us home is a place where we get assaulted, it's not safe and that's not okay. And we can't blame the people who take it. We have to actually hold the companies, be it Uber, be it taxis, accountable.
AMT: And if we look at the Halifax case, the legal definition of consent is unclear. Am I correct?
FARRAH KHAN: For some people I think. But I think what's been challenged—and I'm not a lawyer so I can't speak to that—but my understanding of consent is that if someone is intoxicated or inebriated, they can't give consent. So that's my understanding.
AMT: And there will be. We don't have to get into this case because there will be an acquittal. But the conversation around consent is now one that has moved toward even this, in terms of vulnerability.
FARRAH KHAN: Absolutely. And if people have been drinking, they should feel safe to take a cab home and not be sexually assaulted. And also an Uber. But I think what's nerve wracking for us and I think what's not okay is that people are not feeling safe. And we saw that in Montreal when those 17 cases came up, the police said to women if you're going to take a cab, take it in pairs, and putting the onus on survivors or women to protect yourself all the time. So take a picture of the badge. Take a picture of the cab number.
AMT: Don’t drink they said.
FARRAH KHAN: Yeah. Don’t drink. And let's be realistic—people drink and people take cabs home so those should be safe places. And until they are, we need to talk about a culture shift.
AMT: Okay. Farrah Khan, thank you for coming in.
FARRAH KHAN: Thank you.
AMT: Farrah Khan, coordinator of Ryerson University's Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education. She's in our Toronto studio. Stay with us. In our next half hour, calls for a Canadian apology to the Empire children. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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AMT: I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current. We have a moment to get to some of your feedback. Yesterday I was joined by Margot Van Sluytman and she told us a remarkable story of how she came to forgive the man who had killed her father.
Meeting the man who murdered my dad disrupted my life. At the time of that disruption, I was told to trust. Trust what happens when authenticity of the heart guides your choice. Ten years later, that disruption has become an aspect that infuses my relationship to my family with deep and respect for each other and also shifts how we can talk with each other even when we do not always agree.
AMT: Margot Van Sluytman. She was joined by Glen Flett, the man who killed her father. And after that aired, we heard from many of you. Anita Lenoir of Yellowknife writes: “This story brought tears to my eyes. They are both so courageous. So many people can benefit from their relationship when they come to an understanding of what it is about. Thank you for the story. It will stay with me for some time.” Margie Anderson in Trail, B.C. emailed this: “I don't know if I could be so forgiving, but you can hear the sincerity and regret in Glen's voice. I believe that we have all done things in the heat of the moment that we live to regret. Luckily for most of us, no lives are involved. I loved Margot's words at the end. They are an inspiration to us all.” And Pat Robson in Port Perry, Ontario, had a personal connection to the story. He writes: “I worked with Theodore—Ted—in the men's department of the Hudson Bay store all those years ago when the tragedy occurred. I cried for him and his family then and I cried this morning too.” If you missed that segment, you can listen anytime at www.cbc.ca/TheCurrent, or you can listen on our CBC Radio App. And wewant to hear from you. You can tweet us @TheCurrentCBC. Post on our Facebook page. Email us by clicking on The Current at www.cbc.ca/TheCurrent. And this is The Current on CBC Radio One. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti.
With shipping a little easier, Australia is getting more and more welcome migrants. These children, mostly orphans from English cities, they are soon on their way to the Fairbridge Farm, one of a series of farm school. Each of 11 cottages has a cottage mother or guardian who gives her wards the care and affections of a real mother in a real home. Students leave the school on their 17th birthday but still regard the farm as home and some people even come back to be married. Welcome young citizens of a new world which will be all the better for their presence and their increasing knowledge.
AMT: Well, that is what the British government called its child migrant program. It was described at its height in a promotional film from soon after the Second World War. This is how the same program was described at a British public inquiry into it that wrapped up last week.
Child migration programs were large scale schemes in which thousands of children, many of them vulnerable, poor, abandoned, illegitimate or in the care of the state were systematically and permanently migrated to remote parts of the British Empire.
AMT: That is Henrietta Hill, counsel to the UK's national child abuse inquiry speaking earlier this month. Dozens of aging adults spoke at those hearings about their childhood experiences of physical and sexual abuse at the farms and institutions to which they were sent. The children were called the Empire children. They were forcibly taken from the UK by the government as well as by churches and charities. Some were as young as four years old. Some were told falsely that their parents were dead and many came to Canada. Aaccording to Library and Archives Canada between 1869 and 1939, more than 100,000 British children were shipped to Canada. Roddy Mackay was seven when he was put on a ship and sent to Fairbridge Farm School on Vancouver Island. He's now 83 years old and he joins us from Monterey, California. Hello.
RODDY MACKAY: Hello.
AMT: What were you thinking as you listened to that promotional clip?
RODDY MACKAY: I don't know whether I would have the polite words to use on an interview, but that was the face that they put on to make it appear like we were really being sent to a much better home and the driver, whatever you would like to call it, was to take the boys and make farmers out of us and the girls, they would be domestics. That doesn't come through in any of the publicity that the authorities used in the day. They painted a far rosier picture than what the stark reality was.
AMT: Well, take me back to the beginning. How did you end up on a ship to Canada when you were seven years old?
RODDY MACKAY: Well, my family had a divorce and left five kids or less to the institutions. And my sister and I ended up in Middlemore homes, Birmingham in 1940 and in 1941 I was selected, along with 14 other children, to sail on the SS Biano. We were bussed to the ship, put on the ship and proceeded to Canada.
AMT: What did they tell you when they put you on that ship? Do you remember?
RODDY MACKAY: I really can't recall but I know many of the boys when they were told about it, they were told that you know we were going to have beautiful country, which it is, and to a much better life. That last part's a bit debatable.
AMT: So you end up at this Fairbridge Farm School on Vancouver Island. What do you remember about it?
RODDY MACKAY: Well, our first impressions as we came through, they were white gates, the entrance of our Fairbridge Farm School. It even have the very posh title of Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School. My first impressions, yes, it was a beautiful sight going through those gates. They had lined up all the boys and girls that were already there to cheer for us when we got off the bus and I'm sure most of us just thought we'd landed in paradise.
AMT: When did it start to change for you?
RODDY MACKAY: The way the school went, there were so-called cottages there were more like miniature army barracks, with 15 boys in a cottage and the cottage mother in charge of each. And the cottage mother actually would probably be the biggest factor in how your daily life would go. If you were lucky enough to be placed in cottage with a decent woman, you had a fairly decent life.
AMT: You were not that lucky, huh?
RODDY MACKAY: No, and I drew two black cards. And I won’t use the names. Let’s just say Mrs. G was the one I had for the first five years and that's what I call the years of terror for me. At seven, I'd been with my sister in Middlemore when they separated us. That left me feeling quite vulnerable. Losing my brother and family and then the last straw was losing my sister.
AMT: Roddy, you end up at this farm. You're alluding to the cottage mother and how she treated you. How did she treat you? What was it like living there?
RODDY MACKAY: Well, she was beyond being strict. I have never complained about strictness with a little humanity, but this particular woman took great delight on giving whippings for what today wouldn't—you just talk to a child and say you don't do that.
AMT: Help me understand. You were what, seven, eight years old at this point, right?
RODDY MACKAY: Yes. Uh-huh.
AMT: And you say whippings. What was she doing to you?
RODDY MACKAY: Well, in many cases it was you’d take your shirt off and you'd get a leather belt on your back or you know switch to your bare legs. And then there was a step above that on her judgment that you'd be sent to the duties master and the duties master would drop your pants and use the belt. One declared duties master was arrested for child sexual abuse. And fortunately I was sent to him once but he didn't do anything to me on that level. But I know that he did. I still have one of my good friends who’s still alive, that five or six years of age, this pervert.
AMT: And do you remember how you reacted? You're a little boy. You're far from home. What would you think? What would you do after?
RODDY MACKAY: I was terrified. I was at the point that bed seemed to be the only sanctuary or being in church. You had to wake up each morning and lay there wondering what the day would bring.
AMT: Did you suffer any physical consequences from all of those beatings as you got older?
RODDY MACKAY: Yeah, I've been wearing hearing aids. Ruptured ear drums.
AMT: And your ear drums were ruptured because what were they doing to you?
RODDY MACKAY: Well, there was a lot of slapping on the head. The beatings and slaps to the head. Doctor said on one of my reports that either it was a childhood disease or blows to the head. You’d think that would have stirred something up but it didn't.
AMT: Did they actually give you classes? What else were they doing? What were you expected to do there? What was your day like?
RODDY MACKAY: The day started with a big bell. I likened it akin to the army with the bugler getting you up in the morning. The big bell was a huge factor in our lives. It told us when to get up, when to go to work and when to go to school.
AMT: To what end? Why were you there?
RODDY MACKAY: My father was in the army. And I kind of grew up thinking you know okay, I'm here because of the war on. And they called us orphans but we weren't orphans. I think there was only one or two that I can ever recall that were actually orphans.
AMT: So you talk about these chores and the stacking and chopping of wood, but were you on a farm, were they also making you do other labour, like wider labour?
RODDY MACKAY: There was always assignments of work, whether it be filling potholes on the road or you know whatever, working on the farm, working summertime, working in the fields. It wasn't really the work that leaves me with the bitterness that’s in my throat. It was the unnecessary punishment. There's no other word for it but abuse.
AMT: Were you allowed to have contact with family? Did you ever find your mother again? Did you ever connect with your mother or father?
RODDY MACKAY: Yeah. That happened much later. I left Fairbridge at 17 and from age 14, I'd gone to summer army cadet camps which were just glorious to me. I met kids from ordinary families and made in one case, a lifelong friend that I visit every time I'm up to Vancouver. And so from that experience, I decided to go in the army. I wasn't afraid of the strictness, never mind afraid of it. I mean it was a breeze compared to what I'd gone through.
AMT: How old were you when you finally reconnected with members of your family though?
RODDY MACKAY: That didn't happen till I was about 35 or so.
AMT: That’s a long time.
RODDY MACKAY: I’d been looking for my brother, my older brother. I'd had one letter from him and I really thought—I felt badly. I thought he’d had no schooling. I imagined him growing up on the streets of Edinburgh. I didn't know he'd gone to London. When we finally did reconnect, I was making arrangements to go over to Scotland to meet him and I had been over in Scotland prior to this and nobody in the family would tell me where he was or whatever. Like I say, particularly my Aunt Kate, I think she just felt look, you’re in Canada or you’re in the US. I'm not sure where it's time and a much better life than what it was here and you know why would you want to know about all this bad stuff that happened to you as a kid?
AMT: What's your answer to that?
RODDY MACKAY: Well, because I just had a strong feeling of wanting a family. I wanted a family and I remember the loneliness, even though I was in a cottage with 14 other kids. At times, particular in my bed, I would lay there wondering what it was to have a family. And I was just driven by it.
AMT: The Australian government apologized to children who were taken this way in 2009. Then in 2010, the prime minister of the time, Gordon Brown in Britain issued a formal apology. Let's listen to him.
In too many cases, vulnerable children suffered unrelenting hardship and their families left behind were devastated. They were sent mostly without the consent of their mother or father. They were cruelly lied to and told that they were orphans, that their parents were dead when in fact they were still alive. Mr. Speaker, to all those former child migrants and the families, to those here with us today and those across the world, to each and every one, I say today, we are truly sorry.
AMT: Roddy Mackay, you were in the room when the prime minister apologized. What was that like for you?
RODDY MACKAY: You know it brought tears to my eyes. It was only three or four of us that were actual child migrants from Canada. We were representing over 100,000.
AMT: In the same year of that apology, the Canadian government issued a stamp commemorating child migrants to Canada. Last month, the House of Commons passed a motion of apology to child migrants. Is that enough for you?
RODDY MACKAY: No. I would like to hear the prime minister, whoever he may be in that position, to make a similar apology. They didn't implement the children coming to the shores but they certainly received them. You know they should have been some protection. Any country that receives that many children, yes, I realize that back then the social welfare programs weren't like they are today, but there should have been some level of protection for children like us that had no choice and were placed in institutions that weren't really governed the way they should have been. And I don't care if it was only one child. Then that child deserves some protection.
AMT: Roddy Mackay, thank you for sharing your story.
RODDY MACKAY: Thank you.
AMT: Roddy Mackay. And of course they use the term child migrant, but as you hear what he's talking about, they were anything but that. That's a benign phrase. He was taken from his family, forced on a ship to Canada at the age of seven. Roddy Mackay joined us from Monterey, California. The public inquiry into this chapter of the UK's history has concluded taking testimony. My next guest spoke at the inquiry in the UK. Patricia Skidmore’s mother was taken away from her family as a child. Ms. Skidmore has written a book about the story of her mother's experiences. It's called Marjorie Too Afraid to Cry: A Home Child Experience. Her mother, Marjorie Arnison was sent to the same farm school as Roddy Mackay and we’ve reached Patricia Skidmore on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Hello.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Good morning.
AMT: As you listened to my last guest, what were you thinking?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Well, it made me cry because I know Roddy’s story. I know the truth and that and it’s very, very sad to see, and it was like my own mother, how they carry the pain throughout their entire life.
AMT: How did you find out what happened to your mom?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: It took a long, long time. It took until probably the late 1990s and she hadn't really given it to me before that time. And I just thought I need to find out what this was about. And as I researched and found her story, she blacked out her childhood she couldn't tell me much about it. And as I started to research it and understand that this wasn't one family failing their child or their children. This was quite a remarkable, actually a 350-year program of Britain shipping their children to the colonies. And in Canada, the very first kids that were sent here were sent in 1833 and they never counted. And I think everybody needs to be counted.
AMT: Okay. So I'm just going to interrupt you there. So 1833, so before Confederation they were coming over.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: That’s right. The Children’s Friend Society started shipping kids to Canada in 1833.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: It was a process. It had been going—the first documented children were sent in 1619. It was what Britain did. And kids had been sent continuously. Kids had been kidnapped and sent. In 1833 when the Children’s Friend Society began shipping children to Canada, they also shipped them to Swan River, which is Perth, not much of a colony there yet, and also to South Africa. And the story goes that they're being sold to the Dutch. Slavery had been banned and they needed labour.
AMT: And what were they doing in Canada though? What were the kids doing here?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: From 1833 on, the children that were sent to Canada mainly found themselves on isolated farms and they would be working as basically indentured slaves until they either ran away or were able to live their own lives after, I don't know what age, 18, 19.
AMT: Because you know it's interesting. I remember hearing the stories of British children being sent over during the war and the story was that there was so much bombing in Britain that parents were sending their kids to be safe. But this is not the narrative that you're talking about.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: This is not the same story. No. No. The children were sent away. Many of them found relatives or homes that would take them but these were those children were often sent back home. They were not part of this child migration program.
AMT: So how old was your mom when she was sent to Canada?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: She was 10 when she was removed from her mother's care and turned 11 on the trip over.
AMT: And what year was that?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: 1937.
AMT: Why was she sent?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: I believe my grandfather was living in London at the time because there's no work in the Newcastle area. So my grandmother and nine children were in the Whitley Bay Area and he was sending home money but it was not always enough. From what I understand, the Fairbridge Society was actively recruiting children in the Newcastle Tyneside area and my aunt, who was 16 at the time that my mum was sent away, recalls brochures being sent home from school saying send your kids, send your kids. As far as I can tell, they contacted my grandfather and I haven't found that letter but I've located the letter that my grandfather sent back. It says, “Providing my wife and children are willing, I am quite agreeable to what you propose. If my wife thinks that they will be better off, any way you have my full permission.” And across the top of that letter is written, “This is a consent.” As far as I can understand, they did not need the children or my grandmother's consent and it took a long time for me to find a letter that stated that it was to her eternal distress that she lost her children to Canada. She did not want her children to go but she had no say in the matter.
AMT: So let me ask you—what happened to your mother here? What happened to her when she got here? How was she treated?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: She and her brother were sent to Canada. The hard part for her was that the boys and girls were separated. So she had very little contact with her younger brother. She, I think it's fair to say, hated every minute of it. She was treated poorly. She called her cottage mothers—this is her words—bitches from hell. She had one or two that were nice and I think that really helped her but for the most part, like Roddy, she was housed with cottage mothers that verbally abused her wards on a daily basis. Called them British guttersnipe, orphans that nobody wants. And it's very confusing for a little girl because she knew she wasn't an orphan.
AMT: You have called this child migrant program, migrant—and I am only using the word because that's what they call it, I guess—a big business. What makes you say that?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Well, I call it a business. I had a letter from October of 1935 from the Department of Immigration and Colonization and in it they say strictly speaking, the Fairbridge Farm School is somewhat in the nature of a broker. They ask these public assistance authorities who are like wholesalers to supply the children to ourselves who are the retailers. And throughout this letter, they don't call them children so much. They call them material.
AMT: Really? Really?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Yeah. Yeah. And that's our Canadian government.
AMT: So the Canadian government put a stop to its British Home Child program in the early thirties. But this farm school that your mother and Roddy Mackay went to, it was actually allowed to operate for more than a decade after that. How was that possible?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: I believe that because it's called the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School, the then Prince of Wales was behind it, as were the royal family, anybody of any influence, they were all supporting this.
AMT: It gave it influence.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Yeah, a lot of influence.
AMT: What did you tell the public inquiry when you testified?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: I wanted to be sure that they knew that the abuses were rampant and that it was not just sexual abuse, there was a lot of verbal abuse, physical abuse, and just basically it was not a safe place for kids in my determination. And from researching my book, talking to my mother, reading all these other reports, it just was an archaic thing to do to children.
AMT: Your mother died not long ago. When did she die?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Just middle January.
AMT: And then you just testified just last week.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Yes. These children, for the most part, have had no voice. And I felt strongly that I that my mother can't speak for herself anymore so I have to speak for her.
AMT: You and your mother were also in the room when Prime Minister Brown, then prime minister, apologized.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Correct.
AMT: What was that like for her?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: I think that was one of the first time that I felt a burden off her shoulders. Her shoulders suddenly became square. She seemed to be no longer ashamed. Shame was something that these kids carried their entire life. It just seemed like when Gordon Brown took her hand and said directly to her, “I am so sorry,” I truly believe she believed him and it just made a huge difference for her.
AMT: What do you hope will come of the inquiry?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: There is a record of everything now and that's the most important thing to me, that there’s so many people that have passed on without telling their stories. I think the record of this happening is important and my ultimate goal is to see that it is taught in our schools. This is a big part of British and Canadian history. So much of it is lost. I'm just determined to find as much as I can and make sure it's presented.
AMT: How old was your mom when she died?
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: She was just over 90.
AMT: You must miss her.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Oh yes. Big time.
AMT: It was something she carried with her though, right until the end, huh? What happened to her.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Right until the end. It took me a great many years to fully understand what a remarkable woman she was. She carried on. Her little thing was it is what it is and you make the best of it. And she learnt that at a very, very young age. When I first asked her about her story, she said I can't because I'll get into trouble. And for me to hear this 70-year-old woman say that to me was mind blowing, that she still felt she would get into trouble, such to me was the indoctrination of fear that was put into her as a child.
AMT: Well, you're right that so many of us did not know about this. Thank you for sharing her story and for giving us an idea of this history.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: You're very welcome.
PATRICIA SKIDMORE: Bye-bye now.
AMT: Patricia Skidmore. Her mother was one of the children taken from her parents and exploited under Britain's so-called child migrant program. Her book about her mother is called Marjorie Too Afraid to Cry: A Home Child Experience. And Patricia Skidmore joined us from Salt Spring Island, BC. Let us know what you're thinking as you listen to this. You can tweet us. We are @thecurrentCBC. Go to our website, www.cbc.ca/thecurrent, and click on the contact link. That is our program for today. Stay with Radio One for q. Tom Power is ready in the wings and he's speaking with Danny Boyle today, the director of the new Trainspotting sequel, T2. And a reminder, you can take The Current with you on the CBC Radio app free from the App Store or Google Play. If you miss something, you can download our podcast. I’m Anna Maria Tremonti. Thanks for listening to The Current.
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