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Destination: Montreal c/o BICA - 87 Osborne St.
BICA or the British Immigration and Colonization Association began appearing on Canadian Ocean Arrival forms 30A in 1924 after the organization’s name was changed from British Immigration Aid Association.
The original plan of the British Immigration Aid Association to bring British farm families to Canada had been abandoned due to the small number of such families available in Britain. The organization’s new project was to bring British boys, ages 14-18, to work as farm hands and eventually become permanent citizens. The settlers were selected carefully as to their health, physical and mental characteristics, previous records and adaptability. (February, 1924)These colonists would spend formative years living and working among Canadians and thereby assimilate easily. Furthermore, their British background would contribute to stronger ties with Britain amongst the population in general.
By August 1923, the departure of the first group of British boys bound for Montreal was said to be imminent, but it wasn’t until May 31, 1924 that BICA was recognized as an accredited British Juvenile Immigration Agency. (Public Archives, Immigration Branch, RG 76, Volume 103, File 16120, Part 5.)
A condition of accreditation was the establishment of a hostel for immigrant boys to serve as a distribution home. The Kiwanis club of Montreal helped to raise funds for this purpose and April 1924 Osborne House opened at 87 Osborne Street in Montreal.
Although the teens who came over under BICA’s guardianship had chosen to immigrate, they were still minors and therefore are numbered amongst Canada’s home children. A searchable database of Canadian home children can be found here.
At a Kiwanis Club meeting in February of 1924, G. Bogue Smart, Dominion Supervisor of Juvenile Immigration, spoke enthusiastically of the importance of these young settlers to Canada, the immense return to be had from bringing in young agricultural labourers and domestic workers (girls).
“Almost unnoticed, Canada has gained through this branch of emigration a juvenile population of practically 80,000, fully 75 per cent of whom are engaged in agricultural pursuits. As farm apprentices they have long since proved desirable.” (Montreal Gazette, Feb 15, 1924)
Demand for these workers from Canadian farmers was extremely high.
BICA was expected to and promised to take responsibility for the well-being of these home children.
“No child is permitted to leave the mother country without the consent of its parent, guardian, or the department of government concerned in the training and education of the child. For several years after their arrival, our inspectors, both men and women thoroughly inspect their conditions, and if it is found that anything needs rectification the Department (of Immigration and Colonization) promptly attends to it…The young people have their interests safeguarded as effectively as possible.” (ibid)
The teenage boys who came over with BICA are interesting. Although it was likely tough for them however they were treated, the majority of them "made good" in Canada.
I'll be giving a talk at Roots 2015, the Quebec Family History Society Conference at McGill University in June and would love to have stories about the real boys and their experiences after being brought over.
Just as important are photos of the places and people related to BICA and the boys' early years. Do you have any?
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
My father came to Canada on the mont royal in April 1929 from Greenock in Scotland and returned in December 1930. Because of the depression, what I want …
My father was one of these young boys. He was sent to a farm in Howick Quebec when he first arrived. He was very disappointed with the poor treatment …
John Charles Skan and Herbert Sidney Skan BICA boys Sept 1925
My father ( John ) age 14 and his brother (Herbert) aged 16 arrived in Quebec City on the Alaunia September 25, 1925 from Liverpool, England. Their immigration …