Raising Juvenile Delinquents: The Development of Saskatchewan's Child Welfare Laws, 1905-1930
Marschall, Kimberly Anne
Hidden stories of child abuse and child neglect haunt Saskatchewan's past. The inability of authorities to effectively and sympathetically help children in need of protection is also part of the province's past. Between 1905 and 1930 the provincial government initiated its responsibility for child welfare through the Children's Protection Act and subsequent legislation. The legislation established a Department of Neglected and Dependent Children and appointed officials who oversaw the administration of child welfare within the province. Although the legislation eventually eliminated discriminatory provisions for boys and girls and provided measures to ensure Catholic and Protestant children maintained their religion, its silence on the cultural diversity of children within the province allowed for middle-class goals of Canadianization to dominate child welfare policies. The government also failed to provide adequate provisions for provincial funding of the scheme. The legislation assigned financial responsibility to resource-stricken municipal governments and local organizations reliant on charitable donations, resulting in variable policies and the availability of resources in jurisdictions across the province. The incomprehensive child welfare scheme in Saskatchewan allowed for the inequitable treatment of children in Saskatchewan between 1905 and 1930. Analysis of the treatment available for male and female juvenile delinquents reveals the discriminatory policies of Saskatchewan's child welfare system based on middle-class goals of Canadianization and conformity to appropriate gender roles. Juvenile delinquents challenged middle-class ideals through the commission of illegal acts under the Canadian Criminal Code. However, juvenile delinquents were only part of a larger group of children requiring special care and protection to preserve middleclass expectations for the future of the province. The "making" of children into good citizens meant moulding them to middle-class expectations regarding gender roles, ethnicity, religion, and class. Overall, English, middle-class ideals dominated the development of Saskatchewan's child welfare scheme. Although the government eliminated differential treatment under statute laws, unwritten policies and individual players created discrepancies in the treatment of boys and girls. The decentralized nature of Saskatchewan's child welfare system between 1905 and 1930 allowed inconsistent standards and the differential treatment of children.