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“UBC Asked to Find Doukhobor Solution”, reads a headline in The Vancouver Province. “B.C. Government has asked UBC faculty members to start special research this summer which may lead to solution of the pressing Doukhobor Problem.”
Doukhobors, a religious sect known for their pacifist, anti-materialist, and anti-establishment beliefs, have long been a nuisance to B.C.’s politicians and lawmen. Of particular bother is a radical group calling themselves The Sons of Freedom, who are notorious for staging nude protests, refusing to educate their children, avoiding registration during wartime, and committing numerous acts of arson that have cost Canadian taxpayers close to $20 million. Clashes between Doukhobors and the government are common, and, by 1950, more than 400 of them languish in B.C. jails.
“We have no illusions concerning the difficulty of the situation,” says Dr. N.A.M. MacKenzie, chairman of a provisional committee assigned to deal with the “problem”, “but we are faced with few alternatives. Every year our governments expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Doukhobor problem without coming closer to a solution.”
Though the article makes numerous mentions of “improved relations”, “reduced government expenditure,” and “ameloriation of the issue,”, it is completely devoid of any detail.
Two years later, at the conclusion of the UBC survey, hundreds of Doukhobor children will be taken from their families, and interned in B.C. Residential Schools. Allegations of abuse will be rampant, and, elsewhere, Doukhobors will continue to be denied the right to vote until 1956.
“The Doukhobor situation is completely unique and unbelievably complex,” states Professor H.B. Hawthorne, the survey’s provisional director, “We will do everything in our power to throw light on the problem.”
IMAGE: A Doukhobor protest, circa 1906. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.