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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

Pre-War evidence

2. In 1875, Andrew Doyle, a senior inspector on the local government board and responsible for the operation of the Poor Law in England and Wales, visited Canada. His report of this visit (the Doyle report)[1] made clear that he was “sceptical about [...if not downright hostile to]” to the entire idea of migration.

3. The Doyle report expressed concern about the “lax and informal” manner in which consent was secured from parents/guardians and about the “ill-treatment and hardship” of the children, including the onerous work obligations on them and the limited education they were receiving as a result. The report referred to girls “losing their characters”, and to a concern about sleeping arrangements (with reference to a case of a young girl sleeping in a room “without fastening”, very close to the rooms of two men, including a hired farm hand of whom nothing was known).[2]

4. The report also expressed concern about the inadequate inspection and aftercare regimes being operated and recommended a rigorous and independent inspection procedure, including one-to-one conversations, operating on a quarterly basis, so that children could build up a relationship of trust with their visitor.[3]

The Doyle report evidences an acceptance by a senior childcare professional as far back as 1875 that the sending institution should monitor the welfare of the children after they had been migrated; and in particular of a need to be live to the risk that young female migrants were vulnerable to sexual abuse. 

5. As a result of the Doyle report, a temporary moratorium was imposed on migration of children from Poor Law institutions to Canada, some children were removed from their placements and relocated, and the sending societies did make more of an effort to monitor the well-being of the children by inspection visits.[4] 

6. In 1894, Dr Barnardo said the following in a letter to the Canadian Secretary of the Department for the Interior “...continued supervision should be exercised over these children after they have been placed out in the Canadian homestead; first by systematic visitation; second, by regular correspondence. Emigration in the case of young children without continuous supervision is, in our opinion, presumptuous folly and simply courts disaster”.[5] 

The principles of continued supervision through systematic visits and regular correspondence had been recognised by the late 1890s as good practice and there was an understanding that to migrate children without such a supervision system in place was highly risky.

7. The good practice of post-migration monitoring is also illustrated by the following:

a. in 1902, Father Bans of the Crusade of Rescue made it clear that there was a need for unannounced inspections, careful recording of visits and one-on-one conversations with each child;[6] 

b. the Children’s Society (CS) had specific staff based in Canada who would operate a system of supervision and reporting back to England;[7] and

c. when the National Children’s Home (NCH) migrated children to Canada, they monitored the service, and understood that the Canadian Government was actively involved in inspecting the children’s homes and visiting young people in employment.[8] We were also told that when the NCH migrated children to Canada, complaints which were made were followed up and young people who did not settle were moved to more appropriate work.[9]

This evidence illustrates an early acceptance by some institutions that not only should there be monitoring, but there should also be appropriate action taken in response to concerns raised.

8. We were told that Canadian farmers who wished to house and employ Barnardo’s child migrants completed an application form and questionnaire, provided references. Their homes (including sleeping arrangements and members of the household) were inspected;[10] and the farm employers to whom children were sent by the CS were vetted beforehand.[11]

We consider that this evidence from the pre-War Canadian experience illustrates an acceptance that it was appropriate to vet the people with whom the children were to be placed.

9. In 1924, Margaret Bondfield, UK Minister of Labour, and a team, visited Canada.[12] Her visit had been prompted by the fact that, over time, the Canadian authorities had become less willing to receive child migrants. Within the report of this visit (the Bondfield report), brief mention was made of migrant girls needing regular, close and effective post-placement supervision. The report recommended that children under 14 should not be migrated to private homes or farms because of the risk that their education would be disadvantaged by working, and this was accepted.[13]

10. From 1940, there appeared yet further examples of a recognition of the need to recruit appropriate staff, often specifically because of the risk of what was regarded as inappropriate sexual behaviour. This evidence came from both Canada and Australia. We refer to the following:

a. Following the dismissal of the Principal of the Fairbridge school at Molong, Australia, in 1940 arising from concerns which included some relating to inappropriate sexual behaviour, the Fairbridge Society in London acknowledged that even if there were divisions of opinion as to the standards by which they had to raise child migrants, emigration was only supported upon proof that “their prospects are considerably better than they would be in this country. These considerations all hang, in our view, on the quality and equipment of the Principal. If we fall short of what is expected of us on this side we shall, without doubt, lose our place as the rescuers and educators of children”;[14]

b. In October 1944, the report of Mr Garnett (from the UK High Commission in Australia), which was provided at the very least to the Fairbridge Society in London and HMG, reached various conclusions including that selection of the right Principal was of the “utmost importance”, that more attractive conditions should be offered to staff, and that the staffing should be strengthened by the appointment of those with qualifications in the care and training of children;[15]

c. In November 1944 Gordon Green (then Secretary of the Fairbridge Society in London) noted that “The prevention of sexual delinquency depends on the quality of the staff. In normal times the quality of the staff depends on the judgment of the Principal in making appointments”;[16]

d. Around the same time, a Joint Committee in Canada (made up of representatives from the Provincial Government and from the local Fairbridge Society Board) recommended that the Fairbridge school should only continue to receive child migrants in British Columbia on various conditions, one of which was that they employ suitable staff, including trained social workers;[17]

e. In June 1944, Mr Wheeler (the Australian Commonwealth Government’s Chief Migration Officer) referred to “deplorable incidents” at the Northcote school, where there had been allegations that girls had been sexually abused by teachers at the local school, as well as concerns about inappropriate sexual relations between girls and visiting older boys. He noted that the “proportion of unsatisfactory cases is unduly high, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that faulty supervision and training must be held to a large extent responsible”. He concluded that “each school ought to be inspected at least once a year on behalf of each Government”.[18]

This body of evidence shows that the need to ensure proper supervision and training of staff, and for regular inspections of each receiving institution had been recognised.



  1. EWM000008.
  2. Lynch 10 July 2017 104-105.
  3. Lynch 10 July 2017 104-105
  4. Constantine 27 February 2017 124-131; 10 March 2017 65-73; EWM000005_065.
  5. BRD000120_019; Clarke 13 July 2017 33-34.
  6. Lynch 17 July 2017 10 12-19.
  7. Reed 14 July 2017 13/4-18; CSY000105_003; Constantine 11 July 2017 129/16-25.
  8. Neilson 14 July 2017 111/1-17; AFC000028_004-019.
  9. Neilson 14 July 2017 111/1-17; AFC000028_004-019.
  10. BRD000120_012.
  11. Reed 14 July 2017 9-10.
  12. Constantine 27 February 2017 107.
  13. Constantine 27 February 2017 107-108 and 10 March 2017 73-77.
  14. PRT000273_001-006; INQ000118_026.
  15. Constantine 12 July 2017 121-123; PRT000217_020-030; EWM000438_005 (paragraph 2.5).
  16. PRT000175_003.
  17. PRT000514_001-004; PRT000513; PRT000175; PRT000512_019-020
  18. 8 Constantine 12 July 2017 115-117; EWM000395; EWM000400_001-002, _003-005. In July-August 1947, it was agreed that Fairbridge would cease to migrate children to Northcote on the basis that the children had to have continuity of personal care and Fairbridge had to be responsible for that: PRT000359_003-004
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