By Renée N. Lafferty
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Additional info for The Guardianship of Best Interests: Institutional Care for the Children of the Poor in Halifax, 1850-1960
Most of the time, professional proofs were accepted; combining the dialect of scientific professionalism with the urgency and commanding imagery of “the best interests of the child” was a virtually irresistible approach, and many institutions were closed in pursuit of these interests. In Halifax, some of the time, these professional methods worked. Some of the time, they did not; but at no time were the professionals themselves the detached, clinically distanced observers they frequently portrayed themselves as being.
It was also mediated by selfinterest and restrained by the belief that there were particular consequences, or legacies, laced into the bodies of these children that emanated from their class, their religion and gender, and their skin colour. ” As I argue here, throughout the history of child welfare in Halifax – arguably throughout the history of Canadian child welfare – programs, institutions, agencies, and legislation were all justified and understood within the flexible boundaries of this phrase.
Historical studies of institutional care and child welfare in Canada, however, have acknowledged the importance of religious differences only by separating out one denomination or the other; Protestant and Roman Catholic agencies, societies, and institutions are studied separately. 58 Such separation nevertheless implies that these agencies made a distinct and separate contribution to child welfare services. The competitive nature of the interaction between Roman Catholic and Protestant (or Anglican) agencies in Halifax, by contrast, suggests that such a separation would distort the picture of services in the city and obscure the fact that denominational rivalry was a central feature of child welfare provision.