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Doukhobors at Grand Forks

Chief Constable’s Office,
Greenwood, B.C. July 22nd, 1919

[ Soldiers at Grand Forks at the outbreak of World War One, Unknown, UBC Special Collections 76-16 ]

A.M. Johnson, Esq.,
Deputy Attorney-General.
Victoria, B.C.

Sir: —

Re Doukhobors at Grand Forks.

In reply to your letter of the 18th instant to hand, I beg to inform you that about two weeks ago I spent two days in Grand Forks going into the Doukhobor question, I discussed the matter with a number of the citizens, and opinion is widely divided, that is on a whole, some say that they are good settlers, on the second day that I was in Grand Forks a delegation waited upon me at the Police Office to discuss the matter from their standpoint, and they were unanimous on the point that the Doukhobors were no good as settlers, and that they were a disgrace to any community, the delegates tried to get me to pledge myself to assist them in getting the Doukhobors driven out, I was informed all about the nude parades, and also that some persons among others the Methodist parson I believe, had taken Photo’s of them in their nude condition. I did not commit myself one way or the other took a sort of neutral stand asked questions as to their views on a solution of the problem etc, they seemed to think that the Doukhobors should be forced to sell their holdings in the valley at a reasonable price, for the Government to start a returned soldiers settlement. I informed them that to expect the Government to attempt to force the Doukhobors to sell, in my opinion would be out of the question, as they had bought and paid for the land, and that the vendors had been only too pleased to take their money, and that their neighbours were still selling their lands to the Doukhobors.

They then suggested that, if the Doukhobors were forced to observe the School Act, and the Vital Statistics, that they would become disgusted and leave of their own accord, they stated that the Doukhobors were only sending a very small percentage of their boys and one girl to school and did not report any births and deaths. I informed them that I had been told that Peter Verigin had promised to supply the Government with the Vital Statistics, for the whole of their colony, and that if I was instructed to enforce the School Act with regard to the Doukhobors that I would do all that lay in my power to see that it was carried out. Now I think that this about all that I have to report on what passed between myself and the Citizens Committee.

And now from the Police standpoint, on the 10th instant I visited the colony occupied by this outcase bunch, they reside on community property which Peter Verigin allotted to them when they broke away from the others, they have nothing in common with the big colony, in fact they are arch enemies, their land is up the North Fork of the Kettle River about six miles from Grand Forks. Constable Stanfield went out with me in an auto, when we arrived opposite their houses I saw one woman come from the river naked, she went to a house about 100 feet from the water and by the time we had reached the house she was dressed, the railway runs within a few feet of these houses and although some of the trainmen may be sincere in their objections about nude parades, I must say that in my opinion some of them do encourage it more or less by laughing and making sport of it, however that is simply a matter or opinion. These Doukhobors have no school of their own, and the nearest colony school is two miles away, and of course they do not patronize it. Of this bunch there has been convicted the following, in 1914, one for theft got 3 years, in 1916, 6 men and three women got six months for theft, in 1918, thirteen men and three women got thirty days for refusing to register under the Man Power Act, in May last three of the men were arrested for refusing to bury a dead body, they elected for a jury trial, and after being in gaol in Nelson re-elected for Speedy Trial before Judge Brown, and were let go with a three months suspended sentence. When I visited this colony on the 10th the leader was absent, but his brother who I am informed is sort of second in command was present, I tried to discuss with him the actions of his fellows, but could get very little satisfaction out of him. I tried to reason with him that we had not brought them to this country to live like savages, and asked him how he would like to be sent back to Russia, he said that the whole lot living there vis 44 were quite willing to return to Russia.

Now if we could induce the Federal Government to ship this bunch back home we would be well rid of them, as for the rest of the Doukhobors although they are ignorant and uncouth in their mode of living they seem to be good workers and certainly have improved their property since they purchased it. And as far as I can learn do not go in for this undress parade business. Trusting that I have covered the whole ground to your satisfaction.

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
“J.A. Fraser”
Chief Constable,
P.S. The small colony consists of 12 adult male persons, 10 female adults, and 22 children.

Source: Library and Archives Canada, , RG76 Vol. 185 File 65101 pt. 10 C-7340, J.A. Fraser, Doukhobors at Grand Forks, July 22, 1919.

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