Monday, March 11, 2013

Today in history: a Barnardo Child story

On March 10, 1897 (okay, that was yesterday in history), the Court of Appeal for Ontario heard the appeal of George Speirs of Stisted Township, Ontario (today part of Huntsville) against the local public school trustees.  Spiers had taken in Frederick Hall, a Barnardo child. Barnardo children were British "waifs" recruited to Canada to work as farm labour or domestic servants.

Mostly one reads grim stories of Barnardo children abused, exploited, and neglected by the householders they were placed with. This one is a little different. Spiers wanted young Frederick to go to school. But the school trustees would not let him in. They took shelter behind the statutory provision that in rural areas public schools were open to children whose parents or guardians lived in the school district. A trial judge concluded Spiers, as a Barnardo host, was neither parent or guardian, and so Hall did not qualify.  Spiers appealed that decision.

In the appeal court, Chief Justice George Burton recognized that the probable motive of the school trustees was to keep "these unfortunate waifs" out of their school. But the judges agreed that the language of the statute was clear; it permitted this "terrible injustice," particularly since there was limited space available.  Frederick Hall had no right of access to the public schools.

(24 Ontario Appeal Cases 476, Hall v. Stisted School Trustees, if you happen to be researching Barnardo children.)

Update, same day:  Meanwhile, really today 165 years ago, as Wikipedia notes on its main page today:
1848  Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin became the first Prime Ministers of the Province of Canada to be democratically elected under a system of responsible government.
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