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Memo to Division Commissioner Skinner


File No. 8615
VANCOUVER, B.C. July 17th, 1930.


Upon reaching Nelson at Midnight on the 12th instant I received your wire as follows: "Attorney General complains entry Doukhobors from United States causing trouble Nelson District. Investigate and remedy far as possible", and at the first opportunity interviewed Inspector F. Cruickshank, Commanding B Division, Headquarters Nelson. The Inspector called in his Police Staff, and with another official from Victoria we went into conference on the Doukhobor situation, which at the present time is very serious and threatens to become very critical at any moment.

The Provincial authorities evidently are at their wits ends to deal with the Doukhobor sect known as the Sons of Freedom, who are charged with all manner of depredations including the destruction by fire and explosion of public buildings and valuable industrial plants on the large properties and holdings of the Community Doukhobors, who are more or less law-abiding citizens. During the past several weeks large numbers from outside British Columbia, sympathetic no doubt with the Sons of Freedom, have come into the Doukhobor settlements of the Kootenays, many of them, it is believed, being agitators. It is thought that if the ingress of outside Doukhobors could somehow be stopped the Police could handle the situation and in due course straighten out the trouble, but now all kinds of serious trouble, and possibly bloodshed is anticipated.


The Inspector admitted there were a large number of Doukhobor visitors from theCanadian prairies in his District, but I informed him that there was no possible way, under present regulations at least, of stopping the coming and going of these people, all of whom were Canadians either by domicile or birth: it did not necessarily follow that all Doukhobor strangers to the District were there as sympathizers with the Sons of Freedom, and that many of them might possibly be bona fide visitors to friends and relatives of the Community Doukhobors.

Late the same afternoon Inspector Cruickshank and his men on visiting the Porto Rico camp arrested a Russian they have been suspicious of and looking for several months. They have known for some considerable time that this Russian, not a Doukhobor, was there, but they could never locate him, and the Doukhobors always protected him.

I examined this man at a considerable length, and from all angles, and found he was METRO GRISHEN, alias MIT GRAEN, now using the name of Mit Gren. He claimed to be sixty-four year sold, unmarried, but admitted he came to the United States and Canada in 1898 with a young woman who lived with him, bore him a child, and some years later he deserted both in Detroit, Michigan.

This man arrived in New York from Russia, via England, but cannot remember the name of the boat or the month he arrived. He immediately entered Canada and located on a homestead at Yorkton, Sask., later abandoning it. By occupation he is a traveling watch and clock maker. He resided in Canaria continuously, he claims, for twenty years, then went to the United States, crossing surreptitiously remained there two years, and since then has crossed and re-crossed the International Line whenever he had the desire, always finding a welcome in Doukhobor settlements. He last entered the United States six years ago, crossing south of Grand Forks in this Province, and returned to Canada two and a half years ago, crossing the Line without inspection near the Pacific Highway, deliberately avoiding our Officers. Reaching Vancouver he met some Doukhobors who knew him in Saskatchewan, and returned with them by car to the settlement.

I made him produce his money, consisting of approximately $60.00. He claimed to have lost his Russian passport, and that at no time had he taken out United States citizenship papers. The man could speak English, but with the aid of a Russian Interpreter attached to the Police all his possessions, including many letters and documents, were carefully examined, and his pack, containing tools and watch and clock repairing paraphernalia , carefully gone over. Amongst his effects I found a letter from the Soviet Consul at Tokyo, Japan, advising him that he had received authority from the Soviet Government to issue him a passport to continue his contemplated journey to Russia upon reaching Tokyo, (Consul's reference B T-001). He stated that the Sons of Freedom had promised to provide him with the cost of transportation to Russia simply because they were friendly to him. When questioned regarding the object of his visit or mission he was very noncommittal, and in fact reticent, but finally said there was no particular object other than a visit.

There was evidence amongst his papers that he had made purchases from Messrs. McGeachie & Holdworth Limited, Wholesale Jewelers, Calgary.

Although this man was unquestionably illegally in Canada, having lost Canadian domicile, being a Russian we could not succeed in deporting him. Nothing much was to be gained by prosecuting him and giving him a prison sentence, and I therefore instructed the Police to release him.

The Doukhobors have been known to have Bombs, for instance when Peter Verigin the First was assassinated and as this man, with his life long knowledge of time-pieces would be extremely valuable to the Doukhobors in the event of them deciding to practice Russian anarchist tactics in this Country, I deemed it advisable, before releasing him, to persuade him to leave the District in which the Doukhobors lived, intimating to him in no uncertain language that he would be immediately arrested and charged with illegal entry to Canada if he was again found within one hundred miles of the Doukhobor settlement; and I am pleased to report that he left Nelson on the West Bound Train for the Okanagan Valley within a few hours of his release.

The Police will no doubt make the necessary arrangements to keep track of this man for some time.

Respectfully submitted,

(Signed) W. C. Cowell.

Traveling Investigating Officer.

Source: Steve Lapshinoff, Documentary Report on the Death of Peter Verigin, in a Train Explosion near Farron, B.C. in 1924 (Crescent Valley, BC: Steve Lapshinoff, 1993), pp. 259-61, , , W.C. Cowell, Memorandum from Department of Immigration and Colonization to A.E. Skinner , July 17, 1930.

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