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[ Inside steam room at brick works, Alexandra Korcini, Doukhobor Discovery Centre, Castlegar, BC C-124 ]

To the Editor of the Globe: I have this morning received the following telegram:

"We the Doukhobors in British Columbia are still mourning the untimely tragical death of our beloved leader, Peter Lordly Veregin, and are praying daily to God asking him to help us in this hard time, but the Government of British Columbia not recognizing the sad situation of Doukhobors, are taking very cruel measures to compel our children to attend schools. They have already started to ruin our property, which is already in critical condition by seizing our chattels, including provisions and even kitchen utensils to satisfy fines imposed on us by the Government. We humbly ask you in the name of Jesus Christ to use your influence among the Canadian people to stop this disgraceful action which is out of place in this civilized free country. Relying on your kindness and thanking you in advance for the help you will give us. (Signed) "The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd."

It is difficult to resist this naive and moving appeal. About a week ago I received a letter of which the following is an extract:

"Victoria, B.C., March 31, 1925: I wish you were here to help me in my struggle for fair treatment of the Doukhobors in B.C. by the B.C. Government. Because the Doukhobors have no votes, they treat them scandalously. I find it very trying on my peace of mind and sense of justice as an Englishman.. (Signed) F.W. Godsal."

I received also a letter dated Dec. 3, 1924, from a correspondent describing a visit to the Doukhobor settlement immediately after the death of Peter Veregin. "We were charmed with the Doukhobors and with their extreme kindness and hospitality. It always does me much good, bodily, mentally and spiritually, to be with these good people. I know nothing like it in this corrupt world. Many of the men speak English so perfectly and dress like us, that they do not appear like Russians or foreigners, they might pass for English. The children are sweet and well brought up. The only thing that mars one's pleasure in them is the scandalous way they are treated and misunderstood and robbed by the B.C. Government and officials, even Judges, who ought to know better, but I suppose, not being Christians themselves, excepting in name, they cannot appreciate pure Christianity — probably the purest on earth in a large community — when they run against it."

I am not aware of the special circumstances of the moment which led to the incidents mentioned in the telegram of today, but I know that for a long time the B.C. Government has been harassing the Doukhobors; has done its utmost to break up their community; has repudiated its obligations to them (it owes them $150,000 for road-making and bridge building, which it refuses or delays to pay); it refuses to place the names of eligible Doukhobors, who have been long in this country upon the register of voters; it forces upon them schools under circumstances in which it would not dare to force schools upon other settlers. In general, the BC Government reminds the Doukhobors irresistibly of the Kurdish bandits who used, in the Caucasus, to swoop down upon their villages and carry off their goods and chattels. So far as the consequences to the Doukhobors are concerned, they might as well be at the mercy of the savage Kurds as at the mercy of the Government of British Columbia.

When a Government descends to sacking the houses of the citizens and to plundering them of their pots and pans, it has surely reached the last plane of infamy.

The Doukhobors have complained, among other things, that there is no discipline in the schools in British Columbia, and this complaint is amply sustained by other residents in that Province. The Doukhobors consider that their children were being spoiled by the schools and that their family life and the characters of their children were running the risk of ruin. They were, therefore, anxious that their children should be taught otherwise than in public institutions, where the influences were objectionable and dangerous.

Neither the people of British Columbia nor the Canadian people in general can afford to treat any group of citizens in such a way as to forfeit the respect of the civilized world. At this moment the Provincial Governments are perilously near forfeiting that respect upon numerous other grounds. A few more public scandals in the Provinces and there must arise an irresistible demand for the curtailment of the powers of the Provincial Governments and Legislatures, otherwise the general credit of the Dominion must disappear.

James Mavor.

145 Isabella St., April 14

Source: Prime Minister's Office, "Prof. Mavor on the Doukhobors," Globe and Mail, April 16, 1925. Notes: Page 4

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