Who Cares? Welfare and Consent to Child Emigration from England to Canada, 1870-1918

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From the 1870’s, children in the care of charities or state provided institutions, including workhouses and industrial schools, were subject to the practice of emigration to Canada, separating them from their parents and wider family. This was achieved ostensibly to secure the child’s welfare, and provide opportunities in Canada beyond the poverty of the industrialising cities of the north of England. Using original archive material, this article examines the legal rights of parents of children identified for emigration, and how charities and state institutions obtained the authority to emigrate children. The lack of a clear basis for assessing child welfare led organisations to consider a broad range of moralistic considerations regarding the characterisation of parents and the child’s circumstances in deciding whether a child should be emigrated. Despite these negative perceptions, it will be demonstrated that some parents
exercised considerable agency in seeking to resist emigration of a child, and in
attempting to maintain the familial relationship.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Early online date30 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Child emigration; child protection; welfare; legal history; child law


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