Memory, Childhood, and the Creation of Identities and Difference: Examining International Evacuation from Britain to Canada, 1938-1945.
Between 1939 and 1945, Canada welcomed more than 10,000 British guest children into the country to escape the threats to their safety posed by the Battle of Britain and by German hostilities generally. For these children, the Canadian government loosened immigration restrictions, provided free transport from Britain, and took responsibility for arranging their schooling, housing, and medical treatment. Many Canadians supported this effort and welcomed the guest children into their homes. This outpouring of support for British evacuees contrasts sharply with Canada’s treatment of other asylum seekers in the Second World War period. As Irving Abella and Harold Troper famously argue in None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948 (1982), the Canadian government was specifically unwelcoming to Jewish immigrants and refugees fleeing the Holocaust —often coming from Central and Eastern Europe—when they needed protection most. Yet hundreds of the British children who were evacuated to Canada were Jewish, and their presence in this movement has thus far been understudied and unaccounted for by historians of Canadian immigration. This study investigates the movement of these fortunate British children, and especially of the British Jewish children; how their evacuation to Canada was justified by both British and Canadian governments; and why they were deemed worth saving when others were not. It explores the government policies of Britain and Canada that made this evacuation possible, even desirable; the work of agencies that facilitated the children’s settlement, such as Children’s Aid Societies and the Canadian Jewish Congress; and the decisions of the individual families that welcomed the children. It also explores the experiences of the children themselves who, far from home, adapted—or not—to the new homes where they settled “for the duration” of the war.