Sunday, November 15, 2009

Apologising for the past

There was a British State policy that ran from 1920 and did not stop until 1967, it involved the enforced immigation of children. It was known as the Child Migrants Programme and ended just 40 years ago - poor children were sent to a "better life" in Australia, Canada and elsewhere.
But many were abused and ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.

As the Telegraph puts it .
In what Ed Balls, the children secretary, described as "stain on our society" the child migrant programmes saw poor, orphaned and illegitimate children sent to Australia, Canada and other former colonies until as recently as the late 1960s, often without the knowledge of their families.
Many ended up in institutions, many suffered abuse and neglect and many others were used as "slave labour" on farms.
Now after years of campaigning from pressure groups, Gordon Brown has agreed to meet with representatives of the surviving children before making a formal apology next year.
Mr Balls said the apology would be "symbolically very important".
"I think it is important that we say to the children who are now adults and older people and to their offspring that this is something that we look back on in shame," he said.
"It would never happen today. But I think it is right that as a society when we look back and see things which we now know were morally wrong, that we are willing to say we're sorry."
The government has estimated that a total of 150,000 British children may have been shipped abroad under a variety of programs that operated between the early 19th century and 1967.
Normally I'm not one for apologising about the past, I see no reason to apologise for slavery that was abolished in Britain by the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807. Though not entirely dealt with until the The Slavery Abolition Act 1833. But this is because all those involved are dead and apologising to their descendents for all it might make some sort of fuzzy feelgood sensation to the politically correct crowd is a complete waste of time as the descendents were never enslaved in the first place.

However, some of the children involved in this criminal act of government policy are very much still alive and I believe deserve an apology, for what was done to them as well as what happened after.

What really does rankle of course is the fact that it was the Australians who apologised first and so forced the UK governments hand.
Harold Haig, the secretary of the International Child Migrants Association, said he was appalled that the Australian apology has come before any British apology.
"Gordon Brown should hang his head in shame," he said.
"He is allowing the country that we were deported to to apologise before the country where we were born. It is an absolute disgrace. He should hang his head in shame."
Not just Gordon Brown of course, in this he's just on the spot because he's the current PM, but this policy was carried out under the governments of...
  • David Lloyds George   1916 – 1922 Liberal Party
  • Andrew Bonar Law   1922 – 1923 Tory Party
  • Stanley Baldwin    1923 – 1924 Tory Party
  • Ramsey MacDonald   1924 – 1924 Labour Party
  • Stanley Baldwin    1924 – 1929 Tory Party
  • Ramsey MacDonald   1929 – 1931 Labour Party
  • Ramsey MacDonald   1931 – 1935 National Labour Party
  • Stanley Baldwin    1935 – 1937 Tory Party
  • Neville Chamberlain   1937 – 1940 Tory Party
  • Winston Churchill   1940 – 1945 Tory Party
  • Clement Attlee    1945 – 1951 Labour Party
  • Winston Churchill   1951 – 1955 Tory Party
  • Sir Anthony Eden   1955 – 1957 Tory Party
  • Harold Macmillan   1957 – 1963 Tory Party
  • Alec Douglas-Home   1963 – 1964 Tory Party
  • Harold Wilson    1964 – 1970 Labour Party
None are left alive to apologise for this shameful policy, however the governments after, all had the opportunity to apologise.
  • Edward Heath    1970 – 1974 Tory Party
  • Harold Wilson    1974 – 1976 Labour Party
  • James Callaghan    1976 – 1979 Labour Party
  • Margaret Thatcher   1979 – 1990 Tory Party
  • John Major     1990 – 1997 Tory Party
  • Tony Blair     1997 – 2007 Labour Party
 But no, it's been left to Jonah Brown to apologise for something that should have been done decades ago, brushed under the carpet and forgotten, these people deserve an apology for what was done to them and the effects that they still so painfully feel today in some cases.
Sometimes governments do shameful things as official policy, I'm pretty sure when this was first proposed though it was looked upon as a good idea, a new start for these kids, however the checks and balances were not put in place, they were essentially dumped and forgotten, that's what the crime was and for that the government should apologise, should have apologised years ago.

2 annotations:

Anonymous said...

This Government does not even see the irony in an apology. What is happening in the secret courts (the Family Court and the Court of Protection) is exactly the same 'the state knows best' bollocks. The 'Charities' that administered these schemes are still active today, Barnardo's, for example. They should be vilified, too.

They apologise, but not much has changed, really.

JPT said...

Lets all start apologising - I want one from the Romans!