The salvation of orphaned boys during the years of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire is considered the first humanitarian experiment in the history of Canada.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Canadian government decided to provide shelter and protection to 109 Armenian boys who had miraculously survived the massacres.
Canada adopted the first group of 50 Armenian orphans in 1923, and a year later, about 40 minors found shelter in the country as well. All of them were housed at one of the Georgetown community farms in Halton Hills, Ontario, hence their name – Georgetown Boys.
In Georgetown, the orphans would study at a local school, engage in agriculture, and gradually integrate into Canadian society. Soon, thanks to the initiative of Assistant Teacher at the Georgetown School Aris Aleksanian, the Armenian boys would publish the monthly newsletter called “Ararat” that would become popular far beyond Ontario.
Subsequently, this newspaper became a diary for the Armenian orphans whose stories and letters touched entire Canada.
The experiment on the adoption of Armenian orphans set a precedent in Canada’s policy on the integration of foreigners and also laid the foundations of the country’s multicultural society.
In 1976, “Armenian Orphans from Georgetown”, the first book about the rare humanitarian experience of the country at the beginning of the century, was published. It was authored by Jack Aprahamian, one of the first boys who have moved to Canada.
30 years later, famous Canadian children’s writer Marsha Skrypuch published a story about the journey of the Armenian boys to Canada titled “Aram’s Choice.” This work would become the best children‘s book of the year in Canada several times.
In 2008, based on this story, the John Elliott Theater in Georgetown staged a play about the Armenian orphans. In 2009, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington presented the musical “Georgetown Boys.”
Today, on one of the walls of the Georgetown farm where the boys have lived, one can see memorial plaques in memory of the first Armenian orphans who have taken refuge in Canada.