A Day With Children’s Aid in “Squatter’s Paradise” Tunney’s Pasture

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A Day With Children’s Aid in  “Squatter’s Paradise” Tunney’s Pasture

North end of Parkdale Avenue shanties. Photo CA-19803 courtesy of the City of Ottawa archives

Author’s Note- Aside from a few photographs there is hardly a trace that remains of the Tunney’s Pasture shanty village (the north end of Tunney’s along the Ottawa River) that existed for 25 years.

The poor constructed makeshift homes with cardboard, tar paper, and were built with earth floors, no electricity, no water, and of course no sanitation. The residents of Squatters Paradise as it was called, scoured Hintonburg and Wellington Village for anything they could use to improve their homes.

1943- It was under friendly compulsion that I spent a day with the Children’s Aid Society. Mrs. M. Jean Henshaw, executive director, had been “hounding” me for months to see the clinic and travel with the social service worker on her rounds. 

It was an experience I will never forget, and my admiration for the social service worker has grown by leaps and bounds. Unless one has actually visits the Children’s Aid Society when a clinic is in progress, and travelled on their regular rounds, there really is no conception of the type of service offered the community by this society.  

In the clinic chubby and very thin little children who looked worried were coming in for their regular examination by the clinic doctor. There was much crying at first. But the woman doctor in charge who is also a mother, intrigued the youngsters with a doll and a rattle, and soon gurgles and laughter were heard as the child was weighed and given a check-over. 

The increase in the work of the Children’s Aid Society in Ottawa may be gauged by the figures since the outbreak of war. Prior to September, 1939, the Children’s Aid Society cared for 140 families a month, and during the past month there were 773 families, involving 3,000 children. Members of the staff have doubled. In Ottawa and Carleton county there are some 400 foster homes, and some of these people have been persuaded to care for as many as six children at a time. 

They receive $15 to $18 a month per child and the society clothes them and provides for additional expenditures. Considering the number of children that pass through the agency in a day, it is extraordinary the amount of sympathy and personal supervision that is given them. If the child comes in for examination, each foster mother has to bring the child in at stated intervals. If the child is found to be underweight, cod liver oil and vitamins are supplied. Teeth are examined and, if necessary, the foster mother is told to take the child to the dental clinic. 

When an underweight child is found to have taken a dislike to porridge, orange juice and the necessary vitamin foods, other means are found to give them to her. Sometimes a child is being cared for by a foster mother, and her own parents are able to have her home again. Prior to this she is given a thorough examination and checking. 

Each morning a member of the May Court Club helps in the clinic at the Children’s Aid Society. An average of six new complaints are received and investigated each day by the society. By law these complaints have to be investigated, regardless of the person involved. If objections raised are too strong, the police assist and it has been found that the people who object the most are usually those who are guilty of neglect. 

Children’s Aid Society officers have been chased with knives and threatened with everything “under the sun”– but they remain placid “under fire,” and never give in. They see terrible sights. Children neglected, neither fed nor clothed, while the mother is out drinking or playing cards. They are on duty day and night, because complaints of crying children from neighbours’ houses often come in the middle of the night. Emergency placements are now often made by families who ordinarily would never have called on the Children’s Aid Society.

The mother may be taken seriously ill and with no maid in the home is helpless unless aid is given to her by the society. When we started on our visit we went first to a “squatter’s pasture” which is situated more than half a mile from the street, and we had to tramp through slush to see these children. The plight of the people living in these hovels is appalling. There are about 10 of them; drinking water is unavailable and they carry their water from the Ottawa river, having cut holes in the ice. Sanitation, of course, is lacking. 

shanty Village at Tunney’s Pasture

The people in “Squatter’s Pasture” have been forced to live there because of the housing shortage in Ottawa. The trip was made, essentially, to see that children in one family are attending school. High rubber boots were needed and the people in the huts were living in veritable individual Noah’s Arks. The water was at least three feet deep. 

Some of the “houses” are made of tar paper, over soft wood; some with a window, some without and one with a blanket for a door. I could imagine how the wind howled through the blanket when the weather was registering about 25 below zero. In one eight by twelve house a man, his wife and newborn babe exist. It has a door, but no window. The home we called at was about 18 by 18 which sheltered a father, mother and four children. They sleep on a three-quarter bed and a cot. The father has a job and receives about $12 a week. To go to school in Nepean, the children have to walk three miles. If they attend an Ottawa school, and because they live “over the line,” the father has to pay $4 per month per child and he finds this price prohibitive. 

A boy of 14. with dirty face and unkempt hair, opened the door at the next house visited. He was staying home from school to keep the children, while his parents were out working. The call had been from the neighbours that the younger children were not being properly looked after. The worker found that one child, lying in an untidy cot had hurt her hand. “She just ran a nail into it,” casually said the boy and the worker recommended that it be thoroughly washed and cleaned and said she would get in touch with the parents when they came home from work.

Dec 2, 1952 Ottawa Journal

Another way in which society helps is to budget civilians’ and soldiers wives. The next call was made to a soldier’s wife, whose husband is overseas, and who had asked for aid. She had been sick and has a couple of children going to school, and just wasn’t making ends meet. So the worker called to give aid in budgeting.

 An adoption case was the next on the program of the worker and a sympathetic hearing was given to the mother in the case, who did not want her child adopted. The child wanted to be adopted by the people who had “raised” him. Each problem presented to the society is an individual one, and has to be worked out to suit its own situation. Children are cared for from the time they are born until they are 16 years of age if necessary. 

A typical recent emergency is one of a boy aged 14, who arrived in town from another province. He had an accident and was taken to a hospital. The society was notified and after much trouble finally located the boy (who certainly might be termed as “difficult”) in a foster home on a farm. Finally his uncle was located and he was put on the train and sent home. This is just a typical day at the Children’s Aid trying to deal with the shanty town.

North end of Parkdale Avenue shanties. Photo CA-19803 courtesy of the City of Ottawa archives

Also read-When Low Income was Really Low Income– Tragedy in Lanark County– the 60s

Tragedy of the 60s — Cole Family Fire

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
15 Aug 1942, Sat  •  Page 19

relatedreading

Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland — Names Names Names

When Low Income was Really Low Income– Tragedy in Lanark County– the 60s

Some Memories of Irishtown

Union Almonte and Ramsay Contagious Hospital — “The Pest House”

Tragedy of the 60s — Cole Family Fire

Dark Moments in Ottawa History- Porter Island

Did Typhoid Come from Sinks? Lanark County Dilema..

Canadians Just Wanted to Use me as a Scullery-Maid

Irish Immigrant Girls Were in Demand Despite Hard Times

Poor Journalism or Mistaken Identity?

He Fired the Barn! The Orphans of Carleton Place

Great Social Evils —The Contagious Diseases Act of Canada

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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