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Printed by William H.  Cullin, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
1913.  Victoria, B.C., December 21st, 1912.
The Honourable the Provincial Secretary,
Victoria, B.C.
Sir,—I have the honour to submit to you herewith the evidence taken before
the Royal Commission on the Doukhobors, together with my Report thereon.
Your obedient servant,
Commissioner.  TABLE   OF   CONTENTS.
Book I. Page.
Chapter I.—The Doukhobors, their Origin and History  9
Chapter II.—The Doukhobors in Russia  12
Chapter III.—The Doukhobors in Canada      17
Part I. —Settlement in Saskatchewan    17
Part II.—History of Community in Saskatchewan      24
Chapter IV.—The Doukhobors in British Columbia      30
Book II.
Chapter I. —Organization ; The Communal System ; Land Tenure  36
Chapter II. —Habits, Customs, and Practices  42
Chapter III.—Religious, Moral, and Intellectual Life  47
Chapter IV.—The Doukhobors in their Trading Relations  56
Book III.
Peter Verigin  60
Book IV.
Chapter I.—Objections      64
Chapter II.—General Findings      65
Chapter III.—Recommendations ,  65  3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 7
GEORGE THE FIFTH, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith,
Emperor of India.
In the matter of the " Public Inquiries Act."
To William Blakemore, of the City of Victoria, and to all whom the same may in
anywise concern,—Greeting.
J. P.  McLeod, f "TTT'HEREAS an Order of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council
Deputy Attorney-Genercd.\ VV of the fifteenth day of August instant directs that a
Commission under the provisions of " An Act respecting Inquiries concerning Public Matters "
be issued to you, William Blakemore, appointing you to be a sole Commissioner to inquire
into the organization, habits, customs, and practices of the Doukhobor Community at Grand
Forks, Brilliant, and elsewhere in the Province, including in the inquiry an investigation into
the nature, source, and scope of the authority held or exercised by the leader or leaders of the
Community over the other members thereof; the tenure and ownership of property, real and
personal; the solemnization of marriages, the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, and
domestic relations generally ; naturalization ; the observance of law ; and generally all matters
appertaining or relating to the Community and its social, intellectual, moral, and religious life :
NOW KNOW YE that, under and by virtue of the powers contained in and conferred
by the said recited Act, and of all and every powers and power vested in us in that behalf,
We, reposing trust and confidence in your loyalty, integrity, and ability, do hereby confer upon
you, the said Commissioner, the power of making inquiry into the matter aforesaid, together
with the power of summoning before you any person or witnesses and requiring them to give
evidence on oath, orally or in writing, or solemn affirmation (if they be persons entitled to
affirm in civil matters), and to produce such documents and things as you may deem requisite
to the full investigation of the said matter; and We empower and direct you, the said
Commissioner to report in writing to Our Lieutenant-Governor of Our said Province the result
of such inquiry, with such recommendations as you may see fit to make, and that you do and
perform all these matters and things in and about the taking of the said inquiry as by law in
that behalf you are authorized to do.
In Testimony Whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent, and the
Great Seal of the said Province to be hereunto affixed :
Witness,  His Honour Thomas  Wilson  Paterson,  Lieutenant-Governor  of  Our said
Province of British Columbia, in Our City of Victoria, in Our said Province, this
fifteenth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and
twelve, and in the third year of Our Reign.
By Command.
Acting Provincial Secretary.
On August 24th, A.D. 1912, William Blakemore, the within-named Commissioner,
appeared before me and took the oath of office as prescribed by clause 6 of the " Public
Inquiries Act," chapter 110, "Revised Statutes of British Columbia, 1911."
P. S. Lampman,
Co. J., Victoria. The following Report represents four months' continuous work under the provisions of
the Royal Commission for Inquiry into the Doukhobor Settlements in British Columbia.
Public sittings were held and evidence taken on oath at Nelson, Grand Forks, and Trail.
At these hearings 110 witnesses were examined.
Throughout the inquiry the Community Doukhobors were represented in the person of
their counsel, Mr. A. M. Johnson, of Nelson. A number of non-Community Doukhobors who
wished to give evidence presented themselves before the Court in Nelson; and, finding that
the Community was represented by counsel, they made an application to the Court, asking
that the Government would appoint some one to represent them, as they considered that they
would be at a disadvantage. Although such a course was somewhat unusual, the request was
submitted to the Provincial Government, with a recommendation that it be granted in order
that all classes of Doukhobors interested might feel satisfied with the fairness of the inquiry.
In the temporary absence of the Attorney-General from the Province, the Premier acceded to
this request, and appointed Mr. F. G. Moffatt, who thereafter represented the non-Community
After the first public sitting in Grand Forks, a request was preferred by a number of
leading citizens that the inquiry should be adjourned, to give them an opportunity of securing
the assistance of counsel. When the sittings were resumed, Mr. Sutton appeared on the
instructions of a citizens' committee to represent the people of Grand Forks; but after a short
hearing he retired from the case, having decided not to call any witnesses and expressing
himself as satisfied with the thoroughness of the investigation.
In addition to the public sittings referred to, the Commissioner made a personal inspection
and examination of all the Doukhobor Settlements in British Columbia; and, at the request
of the leaders of the Community, held an all-day session, at which upwards of 1,000 Doukhobors
attended, in the Settlement at Brilliant.
At this session lengthy discussion of the various points at issue took place, but the Commissioner was not successful in securing any undertaking that the Community would abandon
its attitude of hostility to the registration laws and the "Public Schools Act."
During the course of the investigation in British Columbia, it was found that the internal
economy of the local Settlements was so wrapped up with that of the Settlements in
Saskatchewan that it would be impossible to make a complete and intelligent Report without
studying the conditions in that Province, especially as the property interests in British
Columbia were derived from prior holdings there. Although under the powers of the Commission no legal investigation could be held outside of British Columbia, it was deemed
necessary to visit the Saskatchewan Settlements and to procure such information as would
throw light on some of the problems which have already presented themselves in British
Accordingly, several weeks were spent in the Prairie Province, during which the Towns
of Yorkton, Prince Albert, Buchanan, and Yerigin were visited.
The result of this inquiry was exceedingly satisfactory, as it enabled the Commissioner to
obtain all the information required affecting the property interests and Community organization
and management, as well as to learn on the spot the manner in which the Doukhobors had
conducted themselves and their business during the thirteen years that they have spent on the
In this connection, acknowledgment is made of the very valuable assistance rendered to
the Commissioner by Dr. T. A. Patrick, of Yorkton, and Mr. Robert Buchanan, of Buchanan.
It is only fair, in concluding this Preface, to acknowledge the great readiness with which
the Doukhobors and the leaders, both in British Columbia and in Saskatchewan, gave every
information desired, even to the extent of placing their private books and statements of accounts
in the hands of the Commissioner. They also showed him the utmost personal kindness at all
times. In this regard, special thanks are due to Mr. Peter Yerigin, the head of the Community;
Mr. J. W. Sherbinin, their business manager in British Columbia; and Mr. Michael W. Cazakoff,
their business manager in Saskatchewan.
For the collation of the historic facts which largely form the basis of the opening chapters,
I am chiefly indebted to Mr. Joseph Elkinton, of the Society of Friends, Philadelphia, and to
Mr. A. M. Evalenko, of New York. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 9
Descended from "The Cossacks of the Don "—Persecutions during Early Part of Last Century—Attitude
of the Greek Orthodox Church toward these Dissenters—Regarded and Treated as Heretics—Segregated
in "The Milky Waters" Colony by Order of Tzar Alexander I. about Year 1800—Doukhobors First
Refused Military Service in 1807, Throwing Down their Arms in the First Turkish War—Established
Simple Manufacturing Industries in "The Milky Waters" Colony—Visited in 1818 by Tzar
Alexander I.—Tzar Subsequently Attends Quaker Meeting in London—Explanation of Persecution by
Greek Orthodox Church—"The Milky Waters" Colony Broken up in 1841, and the Doukhobors
Exiled to Transcaucasia—Hardships Endured from Greek Church, Russian Officers, and the Tartar
Expert opinion is divided as to the origin of the Doukhobors. General Djunkolesky, who
was Minister of the Interior to the Russian Government one hundred years ago, laid evidence
before the representatives of the Quaker sect in London which satisfied them that the Doukhobors came from the followers of John Russ.
On the other hand, the traditions of this interesting people teach that they were derived
from three brothers—" Cossacks of the Don "—who, through the teaching of the Spirit, and
the careful perusal of the New Testament, were led away from the ceremonies of the Russian
Church to worship God "in Spirit and in truth."
The probability is that the latter view is the correct one, not only because it is so deeply
implanted in the minds of the people themselves, but because it accords more completely with
the spirit in which they have survived the numberless persecutions of the last hundred years.
To understand their present attitude towards Constitutional Government, and, indeed,
towards all Government but their own; to fathom their obstinacy in view of the most
considerate treatment ; and to explain why a people, professing in all its simplicity the religion
of the Christ, should be so suspicious of those who would befriend them, and so irreconcilable
in all matters temporal, it is necessary to know by what processes they have been driven to
this stand.
No one will be surprised to learn that one hundred years ago, when many barbarities
were tolerated in the name of Justice, the sect, which had placed itself in antagonism to the
Russian Government, should have been constantly subjected to persecution and cruelty.
In 1797, Andrei Tolstoev and his wife were tried because of their adherence to Doukhobor
principles, and after being punished with the knout, and having their nostrils cut out (this
punishment was frequently inflicted upon dissenters), were sentenced to hard labour in
In 1806, the celebrated Russian Senator, Lapukhin, wrote :—
No class has, up to this time, been so cruelly persecuted as the Doukhobortsi; and this is certainly not
because they are the most harmful. They have been tortured in various ways, and whole families have
been sentenced to hard labour and confinement in the most cruel prisons.
Perhaps the clearest idea of the attitude of the Government towards the Doukhobors at
this time will be gathered from the following Edict, pronounced after the trial of thirty-four
Doukhobors :—
As the same prisoners remain inflexible to suggestion and persuasion, in order to guard men from like
superstition in the future, and also to retaliate upon them for their renunciation of the Church, her
sacraments and saints, they shall receive, each man, thirty strokes of the knout, and each woman forty
strokes of the lash publicly. The Doukhobor, Jacob Laktev's daughter, Katrina, and Ivan Shalayer's
daughter, Nastasia, as minors, are, in accordance with the Ukase of May 2nd, 1765, to be whipped with
rods. After all these criminals have been thus punished they are to be sent to Siberia, their goods are to
be confiscated and sold by public auction, and the money sent to the Treasury Office in Perekop, to be
entered in the accounts of public revenue ; the carrying-out of which sentence is to devolve on the Police
Court of Perekop. T 10 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
The high Criminal Court, to which this case came up from the District Court, altered the
sentence as follows :—
The prisoners convicted of Doukhobortsi heresy are to be put in irons without punishment, and sent to
work perpetually in the mines, at Ekaterinburg, Siberia, excepting the younger children. The bringing-up
of the children under ten years of age in the faith of the Greek Orthodox Church is to devolve upon the
Mayor of the town or of the parish, together with the priests.
This shows clearly that the persecution of the Doukhobors was due to the fact that they
were dissenters from the Greek Orthodox Church—a conclusion which is placed beyond dispute
by the fact that the Ukase issued in 1800 reads : " Everybody who shall be convicted of
belonging to the sect of Doukhobortsi shall be condemned to lifelong hard labour."
Senator Lapukhin seems to have felt some sympathy for them, for, after this Ukase was
issued, we find that he approached the Emperor, Alexander I., for the purpose of arranging for
a place of settlement where they could live apart from Russians who belonged to the Greek
Church. Lapukhin was successful in carrying his point, and the Doukhobors were allowed to
emigrate to a section of country known as " The Milky Waters," near the Crimea, and each
emigrant received from the Government about 45 acres of land. They were also granted
exemption from taxation, and the authorities were instructed to leave them in peace unless
they displayed an "open disobedience to legal authority." They were not to be convicted as
criminals on account of their opinions, and the clergy, who had been their most violent persecutors, were ordered to stay away from them.
Many thousands took advantage of this opening, and settled just north of the Crimea,
remaining there until 1840.
Before following the later history of " The Milky Waters" Settlement it may be
interesting to note that about this time (1807) occurred the first instance of refusal on the part
of the Doukhobors to bear arms. This occurred during the first Turkish war, when they threw
away their arms in the midst of the fighting.
In 1809, the privates of the Kiev Regiment who were Doukhobors refused to receive
ammunition, or to perform military service, and were sent to work in the Siberian factories.
So obdurate were they on this subject of military service that ten years later, in 1817, the
Ministerial Committee modified their attitude to this extent: that they ordered that Doukhobortsi should be taken into military service " without being compelled to swear."
At this time they had a narrow escape from what might have been a worse fate than that
which befell them in Transcaucasia, for in 1811 a petition was presented to the Tzar by 4,000
Doukhobors, who declared that because they were oppressed everywhere and in every way
they would be glad to settle on the banks of the Danube, in territory recently acquired from
the Ottoman Porte.    But this was not allowed.
Following the fortunes of "The Milky Waters" Colony, one gets a clear idea as to how
those principles were established among the Doukhobors to which they still adhere with the
utmost tenacity, and which are only strengthened by persecution or the application of harsh
The Colony consisted of nine villages, the central one being Terpenie (Patience). In it
sat the Parish Assembly. In it also was the Orphan House, called "Zion." The villages
flourished in consequence of the abundance of fertile lands, the energy with which the people
followed the arts of husbandry, and their fidelity to the communal system.
The Settlement consisted of 13,500 acres. The farming was all done in common, and the
products divided into equal parts.    Storehouses were erected for food in case of famine.
It is rather strange to notice, especially when reading the evidence given by Peter Verigin
and others before this Commission, that farming was the only business of the Doukhobors, that
" The Milky Waters" Colony did not confine itself to husbandry, but that several simple
industries were successfully established, such as the manufacture of sashes and woollen hats.
As to the character and life of the Doukhobors in this Colony, there is on record the
testimony of the Governor of the district, who could not be considered to be ultra-favourable
to them, but who declared that " Drunkenness and idleness were rigidly prohibited. State
taxes and commercial obligations were punctually discharged; they were active, indefatigable
in labour, and industrious in agriculture, and, being sober and well-living men, they were more
independent than others."
This testimony might well be taken as a summary of the evidence laid before the present
Commission bearing upon the conduct of the Doukhobors in Canada, and shows that, whatever peculiarities may characterize them, they have in the main adhered to the principles of
their founders. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 11
In 1818, after they had been settled in " The Milky Waters " Colony nearly twenty years,
the Emperor Alexander I. passed through their Settlement, and was so pleased with their
prosperity that he ordered the prompt return to their native land of all the banished
The sympathy evinced by Alexander I. is one of the most gratifying incidents in a long
record of oppression and persecution, for not only did he grant them many privileges which
relieved the misery of their lives, but used his influence with the clergy of the Greek Orthodox
Church to abandon the campaign of persecution on which they had entered. So interested
was the Emperor in their well-being that in 1814 he visited London and attended a Quaker
meeting for worship, and here his favourable opinion of the Quakers was confirmed, and
undoubtedly greatly influenced him in his subsequent relations with the Doukhobors.
As a result of his visit to London, Alexander I. subsequently sent to England for a
member of the Society of Friends to come to Russia and take charge of the cultivation of
certain extensive lands. One Daniel Wheeler was chosen, and he laboured in Russia for fifteen
years, and the records state that he not only laboured, but " preached by the example of a holy
and industrious life, and was occasionally visited by the Emperor, with whom he had the most
cordial relations."
But nothing could appease the wrath of the clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church, who,
in season and out of season, continued to persecute the Doukhobors ; and perhaps it makes
their offence against that Church more clearly understood if we recognize that they revolted
against the Ikon worship of the Russian Church so radically as to place the emphasis of their
belief upon the Spirit as their infallible guide.
Their religious creed is simplicity itself, and can be expressed in a few words : They
claim to be followers of Christ, and to live in accordance with His teaching. They put
emphasis upon the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, rather than upon His historical appearance. They interpret His teachings literally, so that the injunction to turn the other cheek
when smitten ceases, in their eyes, to be a figure of speech. They believe in and practise the
memorizing of the Scriptures, which has gone on among them for generations. They are
opposed to the reading, even, of the Scriptures, and do not encourage their children to learn,
but rely entirely on oral teaching.
A peculiar feature or custom of the Doukhobors is their frequent bowing, which has its
origin in reverence for the Divine nature or Spirit in man.
That a people who, in their own country, have enjoyed so few outward advantages should
retain so large a portion of their original simplicity of character and devotion to high spiritual
conceptions is a most hopeful sign for the future.
In 1821, the persecution of the Greek Church continuing, we find that a Caucasian Chief,
who had some 2,500 Doukhobors in his district, advised the Central Government that all their
families should be dispersed among Russian villages, and that children should be separated
from their parents " in order that the exhortations and example of the clergymen might
influence them to embrace the Orthodox religion."
This was literally carried out in that locality seventy-five years afterwards, and Prince
Hilkov's children were violently taken from him and placed with members of the Russian
In 1826, Nicholas I. confirmed a Ministerial decision to transplant "The Milky Waters"
Colony from the Crimea to the Caucasus, in order to disperse the "obnoxious sect," and
although there was some delay in carrying it out, still, in 1841, effect was given to this iniquitous decree. The " Cossacks of the Don," as they were called, were the first to be transported to
that inhospitable region, where they were brought into close contact with the fiercest hillsmen
for the avowed purpose of compelling them to defend themselves, their property and families
by force, and so voluntarily to deny their own teaching.    The Imperial order read as follows :—
All the Doukhobortsi shall be removed from "The Milky Waters" to the Transcaucasian Provinces.
The dispersion began in 1840 and lasted four years. Twelve thousand Doukhobors were
deported. Their whole property, acquired by long years of toil, was sold for almost nothing,
the houses abandoned, and the fields given up. An historian of the time comments in
picturesque language upon the scenes that were witnessed at the time of the exodus. He
On parting from the land which for so many years had fed them, the Doukhobortsi women kneeled and
pressed to her their breasts ; they kissed her, and sobbing, threw their hands to heaven and sang mournful
psalms. But the earth to which they pressed their breasts, and the men who should have heard them, all
remained deaf to their sorrows. T 12 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
This people, who up to this time were wealthy, were now removed to the Persian frontier,
where they were continually subjected to robbery at the hands of the Tartars.
The Government tried to win over the emigrants by allowing all who were willing to join
the Orthodox Church to remain in their own homes. It is a remarkable comment on their
fidelity to their principles that, out of 12,000, only twenty-seven agreed to these conditions.
Again it is profitable to quote from the historian :—
Banished to a strange land, where the soil, climate, and conditions of life were quite new and
unknown to them, surrounded by hostile mountain tribes, and precluded by their religious principles from
using arms, even in self-defence, the Doukhobors seemed doomed to perish without leaving a remnant. But
such is the strength of their communal principle, which forms the basis of the life of this Community, that
in spite of continual suffering from invasion, change of climate, and fevers, they at last succeeded in not
only adapting themselves to local conditions, but even in reviving the trade of the Province and becoming
the most prosperous section of the Transeaucasian population.
The moral influence of the Doukhobors was so generally recognized throughout the
Caucasus that their absence came to be regretted by the Government itself. After the last
Russo-Turkish war the Government actually solicited them to remove into the newly acquired
District of Kars, to civilize the Mohammedans. These new Mohammedan neighbours soon
made friends with them, concluding that they were not Christians, for, said they, "the
Christians always fight."
"Such is," says Abramov, "the bitter irony of history upon the offensive measures
directed against the Doukhobortsi."
"And these persecutions," says Count Tolstoi, "as is always the case, when they are
endured with the Christian meekness shown by the Doukhobortsi, produce the result the very
opposite of that intended by the persecutors."
" People wish to hide the fire which has appeared in the forest, and to extinguish it they
press it to the earth with whatever comes to hand—leaves, grass, and wood—but the flame
burns more and more fiercely, and its light spreads farther and farther."
It is not necessary to deal in detail with the experiences of the Doukhobors in the Transeaucasian Provinces of Tiflis, Kars, and Elizavetpol, to which they were exiled when they left
"The Milky Waters." It would be a record of continual struggle, first of all with the forces
of Nature, for the climate can be regarded only as inhospitable, and the land, when the exodus
took place, unfruitful. Nor was the conflict with Nature the most difficult one the Doukhobors
had to wage, for they were subject at all times to the unrelenting persecutions of the representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, the semi-barbarous hordes of Tartars who bore down
on them, pillaging their farms and wrecking their homes ; and, later, the officers of the law,
who haled them to the Courts, from whence they were exiled to Siberia for resistance to the
military law. It is marvellous that under these conditions they held their own, in spite
of repeated onslaughts and well-organized attempts to break up the sect, for nearly sixty years—
for, until the exodus to Canada took place in 1898, they knew no home but the one they had
carved for themselves amid the most forbidding and depressing surroundings.
Under three Tzars, Nicholas I., Alexander IL, and Alexander III.—Reactionary Policy of Alexander III.—
Liberty Curtailed, Education Suppressed, Press Stifled—Fiercer Persecutions for the Doukhobors—
Famine of 1890—Colony in Transcaucasia Increased to 20,000—Prosperous in Spite of Adverse
Conditions—Split in the Community in 1886—Rival Claimants for Leadership, Kalmykov and Peter
Verigin—By Treachery of Opposing Faction, Verigin Exiled, first to Archangel, then to Siberia—
Verigin a Pronounced Ascetic—Dictates Policy of Doukhobor Community from Siberian Prison—In his
Absence Colony again Broken up and Property Confiscated—Appeal of Verigin to Dowager Empress
Alexandra  in   Historic  Letter—Final  Consent  of  Tzar  Nicholas to  Doukhobors  Leaving   Russia	
Negotiations with Canadian Government by Prince Hilkov and Aylmer Maude—Assistance of Count
Tolstoi and the Quakers of London, New York, and Philadelphia.
During this period the Empire of the Russias acknowledged the sovereignty of three
Tzars—Nicholas I., who was instrumental in banishing the Doukhobors to the Caucasus;
Alexander IL, who came to the throne in 1856 ; and Alexander III. Nicholas I. naturally
earned the reprobation of those who sympathized with the Doukhobors for the harsh policy he 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 13
endorsed, although it is only fair to say that Queen Victoria, when he visited London in 1844,
concluded that there was much in his character to admire, and his mistakes were due to lack
of education, to natural obstinacy, and to the fact that he was kept in ignorance of many
things he ought to have known, if he was to judge wisely and act rightly.
Alexander II. resembled his father in no respect, for he was a kind-hearted, liberal-
minded man, and during his reign a marvellous amount of reform was set on foot. The
Emancipation Act of 1861 liberated 50,000,000 serfs, at a cost to the Government of
$500,000,000. The verdict of no less a person than Mr. Gladstone on the life of this Tzar,
after his assassination, was : " The sole labour of a devoted life was to improve his inheritance
for the benefit of his subjects and of mankind."
But, unfortunately, Alexander III. proved to be a reactionary. A few minutes before
Alexander II. was assassinated, in March, 1881, he said to his consort: " I have just signed
a paper which I hope will produce a good impression upon Russia and showT that I am ready
to give all that is possible to give. To-morrow it will be published. I have given the order."
But " to-morrow " there was a new Tzar who knew not the ways of his predecessor, and, as
has been picturesquely stated, the " liberator was succeeded by the persecutor." Unfortunately,
Alexander III. came immediately under the influence and control of the Procurator of the
Holy Synod, Pobiedonostzev, who was his evil genius throughout his reign. His adviser
stimulated him to reactionary measures of every kind, and especially to hostility towards those
who had offended the Greek Orthodox Church. Count Ignatiev became Minister of the
Interior, and such a chapter of Russianization began as was scarcely ever attempted before by
a Tzar.
It is now conceded that Alexander III. should not be held entirely responsible for the
persecutions permitted in Russia, as they originated with the Holy Synod. The policy of
Alexander III., condensed into a sentence, was to stamp out of Russia all non-Russian elements
and set up an image, before which all must bow down and worship—the image of a Russia,
single, homogeneous, exclusive, self-sufficing, self-contained. Education was suppressed. It is
not, therefore, to be wondered at that even the Doukhobors should feel strengthened in their
traditional opposition to education. The press was not merely censored, but suppressed. The
nation was virtually dumb, for it had no sort of parliamentary representation, and no press
worth the name.
On a respectful appeal being made to the Tzar on behalf of his suffering subjects by a
true patriot, Mary Tzebrikova, she was exiled for two years to a remote corner of the Empire.
It is not a matter of surprise, therefore, that, under these conditions, among the many
millions who suffered, the Doukhobors should suffer more than their fellows, lacking the
sympathy and protection of the Government, and being the butt, if not the sport, of the
representatives of the Orthodox Church.
The climax was reached in 1890, when famine brought twenty million of the inhabitants
of the Russian Empire to death's door. The Emperor died at Livadia on November 1st, 1894,
and was succeeded by his son, Nicholas II., the present Tzar.
Whatever else may be associated with the name of Nicholas IL, it can never be forgotten
that he was the convener of the Hague Conference in 1899, and that he possesses many of the
traits which rendered Alexander I. a humane monarch in an age when despotism ruled. It is
a matter of common knowledge that the character of Nicholas II. has been moulded by the
gracious influence of his mother, and it was she who ultimately prevailed upon him to grant
the liberation of the Doukhobors.
When we regard the perpetual unrest which has perennially threatened the Russian Empire
with revolution, apart from any religious dissent, and when we add to this the independent
attitude of Christian faith assumed by the Doukhobors, we can clearly see how nothing but
persecution awaited them; nor can it be doubted that the tenacity with which they have clung
to their characteristic beliefs has been greatly accentuated by the persecutions to which they
have been subjected.
A period of comparative ease and prosperity intervened between the last Russo-Turkish
war in 1877, and 1887, when universal conscription was introduced into the Caucasus. It is
a matter of history that during this period the strict observance of the religious practices of
the Doukhobors lapsed to some extent, and considerable money was accumulated by their
several Communities. Their numbers increased to 20,000. The conditions under which they
lived had developed leaders of strong character. Pobirochin, Kapoustin, Kalmykov, his wife,
Loukerya Vasilyevna Kalmykova, and now, Peter Verigin, have successfully occupied this T 14 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
important position during the past century. That reliable historian, Novitsky, says : " These
leaders endeavoured to govern wisely under the immediate control and with the co-operation
of the Deity Himself by means of inward universal inspiration and revelation from above."
With all their limitations and deficiencies, with their history for a century before us, we may fairly say
that they have managed their affairs well; they have suffered little from crimes of violence; that without
priests or ministers they have cherished practical religion ; without doctors or medicine they ha've been, on
the average, healthier and stronger than most other races ; that without political economists wealth among
them has been better distributed, and that they have suffered less from the extremes of wealth and poverty.
Without books they have educated their children to be industrious, useful people, and God-fearing men and
women. They have instructed them in the tenets of their religion and taught them to produce the food,
clothing, and shelter which they needed.
As a community, they are as a rule abstair.ers from alcohol, non-smokers, and, for the most part,
vegetarians. It would be difficult to find a class of people, equally numerous, among whom there is less
immorality, or among whom the family bond is more regarded.
This is the verdict of a veracious historian—Aylmer Maude—at the time the Doukhobors
were leaving Russia for Canada.
During the hundred years under review, Communism, which the Russian peasants
generally favour, became with the Doukhobors a religious principle; and it is not surprising,
since all sects are human, that even the Doukhobors themselves were not free from those internal
divisions which characterize all religious sects.
A contention arose among them in 1886, when Peter Yerigin was banished to Archangel.
He had been trained under Loukerya Vasilyevna Kahnykova with the express intention of
succeeding her as the head of the Community; but, on the death of this remarkable woman, a
small party, headed by her brother, opposed the ascendancy of Verigin. Here was an opportunity to invoke the aid of the Government in a policy which fitted admirably with their desire
to scatter what they regarded as a rebellious community. So recourse was had to the Courts,
and a number of the Verigin party, including the leader himself, were exiled to North-east
Siberia. It is alleged, on fairly good authority, that this was finally accomplished by the
"Small Party" bribing "the Government officials with a gift of 10,000 roubles.
Full particulars of these events, including a remarkable letter by Count Tolstoi, appeared
in the London Times of October 23rd, 1895.
The result of this act of gross injustice was that the larger section of the party drew
closer together, collected a new fund of f 100,000, and handed over the management of the
fund to Peter Yerigin.
And now a change came over the Community, which is full of significance when studying
their after-history. The " Small Party," headed by the brother of Loukerya Vasilyevna
Kalnykova, may be regarded as the party of broad views and tolerance, which looked with no
unfriendly eye on the relaxing of some of the more rigid rules and observances of the sect.
Peter Verigin took his stand at the other extreme of the pole, a pronounced ascetic. He
ordered the abandonment of all luxuries and indulgences that were at variance with the
traditional simplicity of the sect, stimulated a widespread religious awakening, under the
influence of which the people ceased to smoke, to drink wine, or to eat flesh. They practised
economy, and resolved no longer to bear arms, even in self-defence.
In connection with this latter phase, it should be mentioned that during the stormy times
that had been experienced in the Caucasus they had armed themselves and fought in defence
of their hearths and homes against the raids of the Tartars.    But now this was all over.
The " Small Party " never relaxed their vigilance, and, by dint of retaining the support of
the representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church and standing well with the Government,
brought about the banishment of some of the leading men of the "Large Party," including the
head, Peter Verigin, as already stated—first to Archangel, and then to Siberia. This banishment was a punishment for the resistance of Verigin and others to military service.
Whilst in Moscow, on the way from Archangel to Siberia, in 1894, Yerigin issued
instructions to the Community to abstain from oath-taking, from military duty, and from other
participation in the violent acts of the Government, and to destroy all their arms. From that
time the Doukhobortsi refused to serve in the army.
On the night of June 28th, 1896, the burning of the Doukhobor arms took place simultaneously in the Province of Kars, Elizavetpol, and Tiflis. This remarkable demonstration
did not pass off without a clash between the Government soldiery and the Doukhobors, for in
the Tiflis District a collision occurred between two battalions of infantry, 200 Cossacks, and the
Doukhobors. The Cossacks rode into the midst of the Doukhobors and beat them without
restraint, leaving them bruised and covered with blood.    But no resistance was offered to this 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 1.
devilish treatment, and the Doukhobors started to march to the residence of the Governor at
Bagdanovka. They walked there, singing psalms, but the officers stopped their singing and
ordered the ribald soldiery to sing obscene songs.
The interview with the Governor resulted in another beating, and subsequently Cossacks
were quartered in all the villages of the Doukhobors. The soldiers were given the right to
use the property of the inhabitants, and to behave in their homes, just as in a conquered
country.    The Cossacks behaved outrageously, and many violations of women occurred.
Then the Doukhobors were expelled from their villages. They would be given three days'
notice to clear out, and at the end of the time their property would be sold for a mere bagatelle,
and what was not sold was thrown away. The cattle were left to roam and the corn to rot in
the fields.    The whole population was absolutely ruined.
There were expelled from this district 464 families. They were scattered over adjoining
districts, but no land was granted to them, and the intention was to starve them out.
In consequence of these terrible facts being made known through the columns of the
London Times, endorsed as they were by the letter of the powerful religious patriot, Tolstoi,
general interest was aroused, especially among the Quakers in England, and for the first time
the idea was conceived of liberating the Doukhobors from the country where they had suffered
such appalling injustice and persecution.
At this time their condition was indeed pitiable. The Community was practically broken
up and the people scattered. Their property had been sacrificed. Nearly every family had
some of its members exiled, or languishing in prisons, or in penal battalions. And in these
battalions, according to the regulations, the prisoners were expected every day to comply with
the demands of military discipline; and, as the Doukhobors could not conscientiously do this,
they were subjected to an unceasing series of punishments—flogging, confinement in a cold,
dark cell, diet of bread and water, prolongation of sentence, and other tortures.
Yet, in spite of such tribulations, visitors from England who went among them in 1896
found them abundant in fidelity and animations, by no means cast down, and possessing their
souls in patience. One notable English visitor, Mr. A. St. John, spent some time among the
sufferers, and then went to Cyprus in order to ascertain whether that island would be suitable
as a home for the Doukhobors, in case they should be allowed to enter it. He remained there
long enough to move the first party to Cyprus, and to help them in their difficulties in that
unsuitable climate, and subsequently to assist them in removing to Canada.
Meanwhile, constant relays of messengers were kept travelling between the persecuted
Doukhobors and Peter Verigin, far away in his home of exile in Siberia ; and at this time he
wrote a letter to the Empress Alexandra—a letter so remarkable, and so fully setting forth
the standpoint and wishes of the Community, that it may be well to reproduce it in detail:—
May the Lord God preserve thy soul in this life, as well as in the future age, Sister Alexandra.
I, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, am living in the testimony and glad tidings of his truth. I am
in exile since the year 1886, from the " Spirit-wrestlers " (Doukhobors) Community of Transcaucasia. The
word " Spirit-wrestler" should be understood thus : that we in our spirit and in our souls profess God (see,
in the Gospel, the meeting of Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well).
1 implore thee, sister in Christ the Lord, Alexandra, pray thy husband Nicholas to spare the Spirit-
wrestlers in the Caucasus from persecution. It is to thee that I address myself, because I think thy heart
is more turned towards the Lord God. And there are at this moment more women and children suffering ;
husbands and parents are confined in prisons, and families are dispersed in native villages where the
authorities incite the population to behave coarsely with them. This falls especially heavy on the Christian
women.   Lately they have been putting women and children into prisons.
The fault on our part is that we, as far as it is possible to us, endeavour to become Christians. In
regard to some of our actions, their understandings may not be sufficiently enlightened.
Thou art probably acquainted with the teachings of vegetarianism ; we are sharers in these humanitarian
views. Lately we have ceased to use flesh as food, and to drink wine, and have forsaken much of that which
leads to a dissipated life and darkens the light of the human soul. Refusing to kill animals, we in no case
regard it as possible to deprive men of life. If we were to kill an ordinary man, or even a robber, it would
seem to us that we had decided to kill Christ.
The State demands that our brethren should learn the use of the gun, in order to know well how to
kill. The Christians do not agree to this; they are put in prison, beaten and starved ; the sisters and
mothers are coarsely defiled as women, very often with railing exclamations, "Where is your God?"
" Why does He not help you?"   (Our God is in heaven and on earth, and fulfils all His will.)
This is sad, especially as it is all taking place in a Christian country. But our Community in the
Caucasus consists of about twenty thousand men. Is it possible that sueh a small number could injure the
organism of the State, if soldiers were not recruited from among them ? At the present moment they are
recruited, but uselessly. Thirty men are in the Ekaterinograd penal battalion, where the authorities are
only tormenting themselves by torturing them.
Man we regard as the temple of the living God, and we can in no case prepare ourselves to kill him,
though for this we were to be threatened by death. T 16 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
The most convenient manner of dealing with us would be to establish us in one place where we might
live and labour in peace.    All State obligations in the form of taxes we would pay, only we cannot be soldiers.
If the Government were to find it impossible to consent to this, then let it give us the right of emigration
into one of the foreign countries.    We would willingly go to England or  (which is most convenient) to
America, where we have a great number of brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the fullness of my soul I pray the Lord for the welfare of thy family.
The servant of Christ, Peter
(Living in exile in the Government of Tobolsk).
Another epistle was addressed by the same writer to his suffering brethren, under date
of January 2nd, 1896 :—
The concern of most importance to me, when thinking of my fellow, is that they might as far as
possible try to become humble and meek, which is indispensable for entering the kingdom of God.
I think that when they have begun to be worried, and their material state to be ruined, they must be
very careful not to be tempted. I hold that anxiety of material well-being constitutes already a great
stumbling-block and injury to the soul. I ask that you will advise all who know me not to be angry, not
to grumble at the Government because it oppresses them. But let them bear, with God's help, any trial
which befalls them. Let them only remember what Christ, and afterwards the Apostles, had to suffer for
the truth. It is important to bear, without complaint, scorn for the truth, but it is still more important,
when suffering for truth's sake, to bear that patiently.
Peter Verigin.
In March, 1898, news was received by the Quakers in London that permission had been
granted to the Doukhobors to emigrate. The immediate cause of this permission was a visit
from the Dowager Empress to her son in the Caucasus. During that visit the Doukhobors
presented her with a petition, asking to be allowed to emigrate. The Empress handed this
petition to the authorities, and leave was granted.
A committee of the Society of Friends in London was appointed. This committee cooperated with V. Tchertkov in raising a fund, and in selecting a suitable place for a new
settlement. In this they were aided constantly, and in the most practical manner, by
Count Leo Tolstoi and other Russian sympathizers. The assistance of Prince Hilkov was
invoked, and, after ascertaining that Cyprus was unsuitable, Mr. Aylmer Maude and Prince
Hilkov undertook negotiations with the Canadian Government.
The Prince is a very remarkable man, a nephew of the Russian Minister of Railways.
He was an officer in the Russian Army at the time of the war with Turkey in 1876. He
served in the Caucasus, where he met many of the Doukhobors, and learned to know and to
like them. Subsequently he left the military service and settled on his estates, acquiring great
influence among the peasants. He finally arrayed himself in opposition to the Greek Orthodox
Church, and lost his children, as has been previously stated. He failed in securing their
restitution at the hands of the Tzar, who said that " No Prince of the Russian Empire should
ever be brought up in the pernicious faith espoused by Prince Hilkov, if he could prevent it."
The Prince was banished to the Caucasus, where he lived among the Doukhobors. From this
short sketch it will be seen how closely his sympathies and interests are identified with theirs.
In carrying on negotiations with the Canadian Government, Mr. Aylmer Maude and
Prince Hilkov were assisted by the Society of Friends in Philadelphia and in other places, and
Count Leo Tolstoi himself contributed $17,000 by the sale of some of his publications.
Owing to its importance as an historic document, the following circular letter published
at this time by Count Tolstoi is worthy of reproduction :—
I happen to know the details of the persecutions and sufferings of these people ; I am in communication
with them, and they ask me to help them. Therefore I consider it my duty to address myself to all good
people, whether Russian or not Russian, asking them to help the Doukhobortsi out of the terrible position
in which they now are. I have attempted to address myself, through the medium of a Russian newspaper,
to the Russian public, but do not know yet whether my appeal will be published or not; and I now address
myself once more to all sympathizers, asking for their assistance—(1) in the form of money, of which much
will be needed for the removal of ten thousand people to a distant place ; and (2) in the form of advice and
guidance in the difficulties of the coming emigration of people who do not understand any foreign language,
and have never been out of Russia before.
I trust that the leading authorities of the Russian Government will not prevent such assistance being
rendered, and that they will check the excessive zeal of the Caucasion administration, which is, at the present
moment, not admitting any communication whatever with the Doukhobortsi.
In the meantime, 1 offer to act as intermediary to all those who are anxious to help the Doukhobortsi,
and who wish to enter into communication with them, for until the present my communications with them
have not been interrupted.    My address is Moscow, Hamovnichesky, Pereoulok, 21.
Communications upon this subject may, for greater safety, be sent to me through the medium of my
friend, Vladimir Tchertkov, now living in England, who will be glad to furnish further details, and the
latest information on the subject, in answer to any inquiries addressed to him at Purleigh, Essex.
April 1st, 1898. Leo Tolstoi. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 17
Meanwhile, Mr. Aylmer Maude and Prince Hilkov continued their negotiations with the
Canadian Government. They had an interview with the Minister of the Interior, and on
October 5th, 1898, a memorandum was signed.
In concluding this agreement, the representatives of the Doukhobors justified their
recommendation of Canada as a place to settle in by saying-: " The case seems to be that
Canada is as free as any country in the world." This will be found in a letter which Mr.
Aylmer Maude wrote to Mr. Y. Tchertkov in England at this time.
Everything was now ready for the exodus. The Society of Friends in England had done
nobly, having raised a guarantee fund of $80,000, and the result was that 7,500 Doukhobors
were brought out. Of these, 4,000 had the resources to bring them out, and 2,200 needed
practically everything, the persecutions to which they had been subjected in Russia having
resulted in their complete impoverishment.
The Canadian Government gave them free grants of land on which to settle.
There is an incident in connection with their departure from their Caucasian homes which
is very characteristic of their consideration for others—not only for their own brethren, but
for their oppressors—and it furnishes a startling comment on the character of a people who,
after a century of the fiercest persecution, with their homes repeatedly destroyed and their
belongings scattered, could still leave the land of their travail in such a remarkable manner.
Prince Hilkov is authority for the statement that " When they abandoned their cottages
and houses, scattered through the Caucasian villages, these were left in a neat and tidy
condition, and in each were arranged a table, two chairs, two loaves of bread, and a jug of
water, so that any one who might come to them hungry would not go away unsatisfied."
Under such auspices and in such a spirit did these oppressed people trek, not to some
distant part of their native land, to which, in spite of their sufferings, they were endeared, but
to a land very far off, to reach which they, a simple and primitive people, who had known no
travel but land trek, had to cross 4,000 miles of ocean, reaching foreign soil and plunging at
once into the environment of a civilization of which they knew nothing, and into the society
of a people whose manners and customs, whose modes of thought and system of government,
were alien to anything the Doukhobors had met with. They came to escape persecution and
to save their lives, for they had lost all else. They came in simple faith, and in the firm belief
that they had for ever left behind them, not only the Russian knout, but all that it typifies of
intolerance and inhumanity. They were assured by their leaders that Canada was a land of
freedom in the sense that they would be unfettered and would not know interference ; that
they would be free to practise their religious observances, and to give effect to their most
scrupulous convictions.
How far their expectations have been realized it remains to be told. How far they were
misled, or, without being misled, were left in the dark as to the obligations they would
necessarily assume in the country of their adoption, may be profitably discussed in subsequent
chapters ; but in order to get the right conception of their present attitude, it is indispensable
that one should become possessed of their views and beliefs at the moment of their entering
this phase in their history.
Part I.—Settlement in Saskatchewan.
Conditions of Entry—Capitation Grant and Exemption from Military Service—Order in Council Granting
Exemption—Previous Exemption to Quakers, Mennonites, or Tunkers, under section 21, Dominion
"Militia Act"—Land Reservation for Doukhobors—Hardships Endured during the First Winter in
Saskatchewan—Society of Friends to the Rescue—Supplies Distributed by Dominion Government—
Vagaries of Early Days—Notorious Yorkton Pilgrimage—Sensational Press Stories—Temperate Defence
in Columns of Montreal Weekly Witvess— Verigin sent for by Canadian Government—Arrival of Peter
Verigin and Affecting Interview with his Sister—Relations with Dominion Government—Disregard of
Registration Laws and "Schools Act"—No Prosecutions Instituted by Saskatchewan Government-
Opinion of Mr. Robert Buchanan.
It was in September, 1898, that arrangements were completed for bringing the Doukhobors
to Canada.    These arrangements had  been the subject of  lengthy negotiation between Y.
Tchertkov, Aylmer Maude, Prince Hilkov, and representatives of the Canadian Government.
B T 18 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
In order to understand the situation thoroughly, it will be necessary to deal in some detail
with the evidence of Peter Verigin, given before the Commission at Nelson; but this can
better be dealt with in a later chapter, when the difficulties that have arisen in British
Columbia come to be considered, especially as Yerigin did not accompany the first party of
Doukhobors to Canada, he being still in exile in Siberia.
Perhaps at this stage the most important matter to consider is the conditions upon which
the Canadian Government agreed to receive the Doukhobors and to assist them to settle.
First of all, with reference to land settlement: This matter had been very carefully
looked into by representatives of the Doukhobors, and certain areas in Saskatchewan had been
The original agreement with the Dominion Government was very brief, and dealt only
with the immediate necessities of the case.    It is dated October 5th, 1898, and reads thus :—
(1.) Those responsible for the organization of the emigration to receive the usual bonus of five dollars
per adult, children counting half.
|2.) A further grant of one dollar and fifty cents for each man, woman, and child settled, towards
organ;zation and transportation expenses.
(3.) The use of the Immigration Halls in Manitoba and the North-west granted during the winter
The only other document bearing upon the admission of the Doukhobors is one which
has excited a great deal of attention, dealing as it does with the question of military service.
There is no doubt, both from the contents of the memorandum and from the evidence of
Peter Verigin, that exemption from military service was made a sine qua non by those who
were representing the Doukhobors. The best evidence of this is to be found in the following
memorandum :—
Extract from a Report or A Committee of the Honourable the Privy Council, approved by His
Excellency on December 6th, 1898.
On a report, dated November SOth, 1898, from the Minister of the Interior, stating that arrangements
have been completed with Mr. Aylmer Maude, of London, England, the representative of the sect of
Russians known as Doukhobors, who now inhabit the slopes of the Caucasus in Russia, for the immediate
emigration to Canada of several thousands of these people. That from a dispatch dated May 27th, 1898,
addressed to the Foreign Office by Her Majesty's Consul at Batoum, it would appear that since their settlement in the region of the Caucasus the Doukhobors have by their good behaviour, diligence, sobriety, and
hard-working qualities brought nothing but prosperity to the barren localities in which they were originally
settled, but as from religious doctrines they are averse to bearing arms, an exception which the Russian
Government has refused to countenance, they have been permitted by the latter to depart from Russia.
The Minister, under the circumstances, and considering that the Doukhobors would appear to be a most
desirable class of settlers to locate upon the vacant Dominion lands in Manitoba and the North-west Territories, is of opinion that it is important to give them the fullest assurance of absolute immunity from
military service in the event of their settling in the country.
The Minister submits that subsection (3) of section 21 of the "Militia Act," chapter 41 of the Revised
Statutes of Canada, contains the following provision :—
" Every person bearing a certificate from the Society of Quakers, Mennonites, or Tunkers, and every
inhabitant of Canada of any religious denomination, otherwise subject to military duty, who, from doctrines
of his religion, is averse to bearing arms and refuses personal military service, shall be exempt from sueh
service when balloted in times of peace or war upon such conditions and under such regulations as the
Governor in Council from time to time prescribes."
The Minister recommends that, under the power vested in Your Excellency in Council by the above
provision, the Doukhobors settling permanently in Canada be exempted, unconditionally, from service in the
Militia, upon the production in each case of a certificate of membership from the proper authorities of their
The Committee submit the same for Your Excellency's approval.
John McGhee,
Clerk cf the Privy Council.
The recommendation of the Minister was acceded to, the exemption was granted, and the
Order in Council was printed in the Russian language and circulated among the Doukhobors.
It is not surprising that this exemption was sought, because much of the persecution to
which they had been subjected in Russia was due to their resistance to military service. It
was in connection with this resistance that their leader, Peter Yerigin, was charged with
rebellion, and exiled; and it was in connection with the burning of their arms that they were
subjected to the grossest cruelties at the hands of the Cossacks.
Having adopted in its entirety the programme outlined by Peter Yerigin, which involved
the rigid observance of the traditional law of the Doukhobor which prohibited killing, it could
not be otherwise than that, upon entering a new country, and a country which they regarded
as the freest in the world, they should have required some absolute guarantee on this point. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobobs. T 19
Yet it is interesting, as illustrating the trend of their mind, that this guarantee was not
sought before their admission, or even at the time of their landing. It was not until three
months after they had reached Canada that the representations of their leaders were pressed
upon the Government and the Order in Council obtained.
It is in evidence before the present Commission that the Doukhobors had taken everything
" on faith," believed that they would be subject to no interference, and that no requirements
alien to their religious beliefs would be made upon them; but after reaching Canada they
quickly learned that there was such a thing as military service; and, fearing that in the event
of war breaking out they might be compelled to join the army, they took the necessary steps
to secure exemption.
No doubt the Government of the day was actuated by a spirit of fairness, and a desire to
conciliate a large body of people who had proved themselves to be expert farmers, and who in
this respect constituted the most desirable class of settlers Canada could have.
This policy found some support in the fact that there was already in existence an
exemption clause (section 21 of the Dominion " Militia Act ") which granted similar exemption
to Quakers, Mennonites, or Tunkers, and other inhabitants of Canada of any religious denomination otherwise subject to military duty who, through the doctrines of their religion, are averse
to bearing arms and refuse military service.
There will be a very wide difference of opinion as to the wisdom of granting such
exemptions. While no one wishes to trample upon the beliefs of his fellow, or to curtail the
privileges of those who live in a country which justly boasts of its freedom, it is very doubtful
whether it is a wise policy to grant the privileges of citizenship and the protection of the
Government to settlers who are not willing to assume all the responsibilities of citizenship and
to take their full share of whatever sacrifice may be involved in defending the country of their
adoption. It is certain that the granting of such exemptions opens the door to widespread
dissatisfaction; and, if the number of exemptions should reach beyond a negligible quantity,
there will be a general demand for the rescinding of any legislation or Order in Council
according this privilege.
The Dominion Government set aside 270,480 acres of prairie land for the 7,361 Doukhobors
who came to Canada.    It may be interesting to note that of this 7,361, 1,500 were men.
The bulk of this tract was located about seventy-five miles north of Yorkton ; but the
most western settlement, on Duck Lake, was 300 miles away.
They at once settled on the land, began to collect all the light timber that was available,
and to build houses.    They were furnished with seed, and lost no time in ploughing and sowing.
Their methods brought them under severe criticism from the first, although an unbiased
consideration of the subject would have led to the conclusion that some of the vagaries in
which they indulged were not due to craziness, or even stubbornness, but rather to the new
condition and environment with which they were not familiar, and the lack of suitable
For instance, much has been made of the fact that in the early days of settlement women
were yoked to the plough—as many as twenty of them performing the work usually done by
horses. But it must be remembered that at this time the Doukhobors had no horses; and
that, although it may have been considered an unwomanly occupation, it reflects no little credit
upon their courage and determination that they should have been willing to subject themselves
to this arduous toil rather than run the risk of failing in the first season's crop. It is admitted
that if they had not done this there would have been a scarcity of bread during the ensuing
winter. Within a few weeks, more than 100 acres were thus ploughed and sowed without
any injury to the women.
The fact of the matter is that everybody—men, women, and children—turned their hand
to do whatever was necessary. The women also helped to build the houses, doing most of the
plastering of the walls with their own hands.
On the first visit of a Government official to the Thunder Hill Settlement, shortly after
these villages were laid out, he reported most favourably on the work that had been done.
Not only were the houses well built and well plastered, but the furniture was all home-made,
and consisted of rough stools to sit on, higher benches which served as tables, and bedsteads
made of a series of poplar poles laid close together along the walls; on these hay was laid, and
over all a piece of thick felt.
It was no palace of luxury to which these long-suffering people came, but they never complained ; and they tackled the problem of carving their simple fortunes out of the prairie in
the most practical and cheerful manner. T 20 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobohs. 1913
In each house they erected a Russian oven, which served the double purpose of warming
the house and cooking the food. Each village was provided with a steam bath-house, steam
being generated by pouring water on heated stones. From the first the Doukhobors were distinguished by their cleanly habits.
Each room had a window and a door, but ventilation played a very small part in their
domestic economy.
All their clothing was made by themselves, and it has been estimated that the cost of
living averaged about $2 per head per month.
Released from the fear of persecution, the Doukhobor Communities in Canada quickly
established a reputation for cheerfulness, and whether at work or resting in the home, they
were constantly singing or chanting their psalms.
In the earliest days of the Settlement most of the men had to go to work on railway-
construction in order to earn a little money, for, so far as money was concerned, the new
settlers were almost destitute. All the money thus earned was carefully hoarded, found its
way to a common fund, and speedily became available for the benefit of the whole Community.
All this time Peter Yerigin was in exile in Siberia, but he never lost touch with the
Community, and at one of their many religious services a letter was read from him, in which
he exhorted his people to remain firm in their belief; to remember always their God and their
fathers' God; to teach their children to learn the commandments and to read the glorious
psalms of David ; but, above all, to learn to love their brethren. They must not only love one
another, but must love their enemies, doing good to them that would despitefully use and
persecute them.
The first winter was a hard one for the Doukhobors, and they had to appeal to the Society
of Friends to help them out. They had been practically stranded in the midst of a vast continent,
with a short summer, and the chilling frost of winter already approaching, and they had but
two weeks' supply of bread.
The Society of Friends came to their aid, and provisions were forwarded to the colonists
and distributed only just in time to prevent them from starving. Supplies were assembled at
Yorkton. A car-load of sugar, four cars of cornmeal, one of rolled oats, one of onions, and
several car-loads of potatoes were distributed throughout the fifty-seven villages which had been
formed. Wool, yarn, leather, and lamps were forwarded from Philadelphia, also tea and linseed-
oil, of which the Doukhobors are very fond. Three hundred spinning-wheels were also purchased,
as well as forty-nine cows and ten yoke of oxen. A car of supplies intended especially for the
sick, aged, and the younger children was particularly appreciated.
It may he interesting to mention that among the earliest settlers in Saskatchewan was
the venerable Anastasia Yerigin, mother of Peter Yerigin, who at the time of her arrival was
eighty years of age. At that time she had six sons in exile, of whom Peter was the most
Settlement and land-cultivation proceeded apace. Once the rigours and privations of the
first winter were passed and the earth began to yield her increase, conditions improved. The
contributions of the many friends of the Doukhobors on the outside had tided them over their
initial difficulty, and in the spring of the following year, and of many subsequent years, large
sums of money were earned by the men on the outside, most of which was turned in to the
communal coffers.
All went on well until the fall of 1902, when a most unfortunate occurrence took place,
and one which, more than anything else, has brought the Doukhobors into disfavour, and
caused them to be branded as irresponsible fanatics.
Several hundred Doukhobors—men and women—from the Yorkton Colony, having been
influenced by a religious fanatic who did not originally belong to their Community, and who
posed as a prophet, became the subject of a " craze " which may, perhaps, be fitly defined as
hysteria. They started on a pilgrimage, first stripping themselves of all clothing. They
marched, in bitter weather and with snow on the ground, some thirty or forty miles to Yorkton,
where the women and children were detained by the authorities and housed and fed by the
residents, while the men persisted on their march to Winnipeg, getting as far as Minnedosa,
some 150 miles distant. From this point they were brought back on a special train and
returned to their homes.
It is only fair to say that the pilgrimage was confined to the small number stated, and
that the vast majority of the Doukhobors, in Yorkton and other Colonies, had no sympathy
with the movement. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 21
Naturally, the press, in search of a sensational story, published grossly exaggerated reports
of the march, and so fastened on this well-meaning but deluded people a reproach which has
not yet been entirly removed.
The fanatics who took part in this movement professed that they were " Looking for the
Second Coming of Christ," and that they went out to find Him, believing that they would find
Him on the prairie, and that He would lead them forth to evangelize the world.
The account has been so widely read that it is not necessary to deal with it further, except
to emphasize the fact that the handful of fanatics who took part in it could in no .sense be
regarded as representative of the Community as a whole; that their acts were disavowed at the
time by their fellows ; and that, in giving evidence at Nelson before the present Commission,
Peter Verigin denounced them in strong terms, and declared that they were religious fanatics.
Still, it must be remembered that many times in their history the Doukhobors have been
the subjects of religious hysteria, and have "broken out" in various ways, although, perhaps,
in no case quite so extravagantly as in the one under consideration.
Nor was this fanatical pilgrimage the only vagary in which they indulged, for shortly
before the religious agitation among the Yorkton and Swan River colonists, they refused to
work their horses or to milk their cows, turning them loose on the prairie. They refused to
wear anything that had an animal origin. They discarded their leather boots and wore
rubbers. They would not eat butter, eggs, or indeed any article of food connected, however
remotely, with an animal.
One would have to be profoundly versed in the pyschology of this strange people to fully
understand the impelling motive of their extravagant conduct; but some allowances must
surely be made for the fact that they have been transplanted into a new country, with a different
climate developing extreme rigours, and with all the traditions of life as different from what
they had been accustomed to as it is possible to conceive. Then, remembering that they are
of simple mind, and little more than grown-up children, placing implicit faith in their leaders,
it is hardly open to doubt that they had painted with too roseate anticipations the new life
to which they were travelling. They expected exemption from many things besides military
service, and especially exemption from such bodily discomfort, privation, and hardship as they
were compelled to endure during the first winter.
It may not appear to be of serious importance, but it is, nevertheless, a matter of record
that the Doukhobors suffered greatly from the onslaught of mosquitoes, an insect with which
they were entirely unfamiliar, and which tortured them in the earlier years of their settlement
in Saskatchewan.
There can be little doubt that the testimony of Peter Verigin must be accepted when he
states that it was this combination of circumstances, inducing nervousness, restlessness, and
some discontent, all fanned by an irresponsible fanatic, which led to most of the vagaries in
which the Doukhobors indulged at this time.
The Montreal Weekly Witness, one of the most sincere and reliable journals in the Dominion,
spoke in noble defence of the Doukhobors, and in its issue of October 6th, 1902, said :—
We do not censure the Puritans as a class because there were many religious fanatics among them. To
censure the Doukhobors just because a minority of them are religious fanatics is as unjust as the Doukhobors
themselves are in judging Canadians by the more uncivilized minority of our people whom they occasionally
see on the frontiers of our civilization in the West.
Just as every Anglo-Saxon "craze" runs its course, declines and disappears, so will it be with this
fanatical exuberance of the Doukhobortsi.
The craze had passed, and that rapidly, for even a month later the Government Agent
was able to report that the Doukhobors had returned to their respective villages, were
occupying their former homes, and that all arrangements had been made for their comfortable
On their way back from this march, the Doukhobors so far abandoned their objections
to horses that they purchased a number and set them to work.
Perhaps the comment of Mr. J. Obed Smith, the Commissioner of Immigration, on this
incident summarizes the opinion of a man,well able to judge. In the Manitoba Free Press of
September 23rd, 1902, he says :—
The Doukhobors have been dealt with from the standpoint that they would and do form a most valuable
acquisition to Canada, and are much-needed settlers of our vacant lands. To those who are disposed to
criticize the presence of the Doukhobors I would say that the sociological condition of these people (except
the few who have imbibed strange notions) before coming to Canada, and now, must be taken into consideration, and results will prove from that standpoint alone the real value to the country of the Community of
Christian Brotherhood, as the Doukhobors delight to call themselves. T 22 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
The troubles above referred to, combined with the slow progress made in actually cultivating the land, occasioned the Dominion Government considerable anxiety. They felt that
they had no guarantee that there might not be a repetition of the scenes that had caused so
much trouble, and they wisely came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was, if possible,
to get Peter Verigin to Canada.
Many influences had to be invoked before this could be effected. He still had some years
of his Siberian sentence to serve, but it is understood that the same august personages who
had rendered their assistance in securing the consent of the Tzar to the exodus of the
Doukhobors again came to the rescue, for permission was given for Peter Yerigin to leave
Russia and join his co-religionists in Canada.
The Manitoba Free Press of November 23rd, 1902, gave a graphic account of the long-
looked-for arrival of the Doukhobor leader.    It said :—
For hours before the train from the East pulled in yesterday afternoon, a woman promenaded the
platform awaiting its arrival. She was awaiting her brother, whom she had not seen for fifteen years.
When, a little before 3 o'clock, the train drew in, there alighted from one of the coaches a tall, quiet-looking
man, carrying a black-leather valise studded with nickel bosses arranged in curious design. A dark-blue
baberdine reached half-way to the knees ; over his trousers were fastened close-fitting, dark-grey leggings,
piped at the edges with black cloth. His head-gear was a black Fedora. Around his neck he wore a long
cord, fastened to which were a heavy silver watch and a richly chased gold pencil. Alongside the watch-
pocket was a fountain pen, secured by loops of the cloth.
The traveller was Peter Verigin, newly come to Canada after fifteen years of Siberian exile. The woman
was his sister.
In the crush of Christmas travel it was some time before those looking for the new arrival could find
the object of their search. Accompanied by Interpreter Harvey, who had gone East to meet Verigin, and
by Ewan Ivan, Paul Planidin, and Simeon Riibin, three Doukhobors who had been deputed by the Communities to extend to the Doukhobor leader a welcome on his arrival, Verigin walked eastward along the
His sister saw him standing half a head taller than the average, and ran towards him, followed by the
other waiting Doukhobors, with joyful cries. Verigin dropped his valise, took off his hat, opened his arms,
and cried "Anna !" He kissed his sister and the others, and quietly walked on toward the Immigration
Buildings, being introduced on the way to Mr. H. P. Archer, of Swan River; to Immigration Agent Crerar,
of Yorkton—both of whom had been for days in the city awaiting his coming; to Mrs. Almanavsky, who
acted as interpreter, and to the Free Press representative.
On the party's arriving at the Immigration Buildings, Verigin was shown the room set apart for his use.
Here he spent a little time chatting with his sister and friends, inquiring after his mother, who is eighty-six
years of age, and who lives at Poterpevshe Village with his sister, whose full name is Anna Vasilievna
Podovinnikov. Then, after the baggage had been packed away and the foregoing domestic inquiries made,
the party moved downstairs to Acting-Commissioner Moffatt's office.
Mr. Moffatt greeted Virigin warmly, welcoming him to the West in the name of the Dominion authorities. In answer to his inquiries as to his voyage, Verigin said it was a long journey—good, but rough.
He had sailed from Liverpool, after crossing Europe from Moscow to Warsaw, and thence to England.
"You'll be glad to be in a country," said Mr. Moffatt, "where there is religious and individual freedom."
"I haven't looked round yet," answered Verigin, through the interpreter, "so I cannot tell whether
this is a free country or not."
" You know, however," said Mr. Moffatt, "that in Canada we do not put people in prison because of
their political or religious views."
"Oh, yes," answered Verigin, "I know that."
"People have been looking for your coming for a long time," said Agent Crerar. " There are three
hundred Doukhobors at Yorkton Station, watching every train for you. And there is one person very
anxious to see you—your mother."
Verigin had up to this time been quietly courteous and dignified; but here his manner underwent a
change, becoming alertly interested.
"Did you see my mother ; yes ?" he asked.    "When did you see her ?    Was she well ?"
Mr. Crerar satisfied him on these points, and then Verigin asked him when the train would take him
" I am in a hurry to see my mother," he said. " There is no train till to-morrow ; yes? I would go
to-day if I could ; yes ? "
Then he realized that perhaps he might be taking up too much of the Commissioner's time.
" Shall I see you again ; yes ?" he asked.    " You are perhaps now too occupied."
Being assured on this point, Mr. Moffatt asked him concerning his visit to Ottawa.
" I couldn't talk much business," he said, "for I have not seen the Doukhobors. For myself, I know
nothing of their troubles—only what I have heard. They tell me the people would not take up their homestead lands."
" Did you hear of the pilgrimage ?" asked Mr. Crerar, " and the action taken by the Government to
prevent the pilgrims being frozen to death ?"
"I have not heard any particulars," answered Verigin. "It was in print in the Russian papers.
They said that two hundred people were frozen to death."
Mr. Crerar told him that this was entirely false. Pointing to the Free Press representative, who was
the only newspaper man present at the interview, Mr. Crerar told Verigin that he had accompanied the
pilgrims throughout their wanderings, and personally knew of all the facts in connection therewith. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 23
"Is that so; yes? " said Verigin.     " 1 shall have much to ask him."
It was evident that he would make no statement as to his future actions, or the counsel he would give
the Doukhobors, who for months have been anxiously awaiting his coming, till he had personally familiarized
himself with every phase of the situation. Mr. Moffatt, indeed, and wisely, did not attempt to draw from
Verigin any statement.
"You will know all about the troubles the Government has had with the Doukhobors," he said, "when
you get among them. We hope your coming may have a very good effect. We will do anything possible
to help you. You must be tired after your long journey. And you must be hungry. So now I'll say goodbye to you, and wish you a safe journey to your mother to-morrow."
Verigin listened gravely, and when this was translated, rose and shook hands with the Commissioner.
" I thank you much," he said. "I hope my coming may be good. I hope so, indeed," and so he went
upstairs to his room.
The interest in the Doukhobor Settlements in Saskatchewan, so far as the present inquiry
is concerned, rests, first of all, upon their relations with the Dominion Government; secondly,
upon their attitude toward the laws of the country; and, thirdly, upon their material
Their relations with the Government can never be said to have been satisfactory, because
from the first it was obvious that there was a misconception on the part of the Doukhobors as
to the privileges to be accorded to them. The matter of military service had been satisfactorily
cleared up, but nothing had been said about the observance of the registration laws or compliance with the " Schools Act," and yet it was manifest from the very first that the Doukhobors
would assume an attitude of indifference, if not of open hostility, to both.
It is not intended in this chapter to analyse the reasons upon which the Doukhobors based
their refusal to comply with the laws. This can be better dealt with when considering the
evidence of Peter Verigin and other Doukhobor leaders before the Commission.
Suffice it to say, here, that at no time during their residence in Saskatchewan was there
any compliance on the part of Community Doukhobors with the registration laws or the
" Schools Act."
There was, it is true, a colourable compliance with the latter, when for a short time the
Settlement at Spirit Lake, near Buchanan, was provided with a school building, and two
Quaker ladies were brought in by the Doukhobors to teach the children. But the arrangement fell through in a very short time through lack of interest, and because the Doukhobors
were obviously unwilling to support it. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the leaders,
including Peter Verigin, were not favourable to the scheme, because it is equally difficult to
believe that, if they had favoured it, it would not have been persevered in.
The fact that the Society of Friends, which had done so much to establish the Doukhobors
in Canada, favoured education had no weight. And, whilst concluding that the leaders could
not have exercised their influence in favour of observing the " Schools Act," it is only fair to
Peter Verigin to place on record the fact that before leaving Russia he wrote a letter to the
Community in Saskatchewan, advising them to submit to elementary education.
It is difficult to decide exactly where the blame lies. It is quite conceivable that on the
subject of education there was indifference among the rank and file, and when the reasons for
this can be considered it will be understood ; but it is, all the same, hard to believe that leaders
who were able to exact such implicit obedience from their followers in other matters could not
have secured a reasonable compliance with the law in this respect.
It is to be feared that the attitude of the Doukhobors on these as well as other important
matters is due, in no small degree, to the persecution they have suffered, and their lack of
confidence in the bona fides of all forms of government.
A people who think they have come, in spiritual descent at least, from the three children
of Israel who came out of the fiery furnace without the smell of fire on their garments, and
who believe the mission of evangelizing the world has been committed to them because they
have the oracles of God—such a people are not likely to be led out of their mental darkness
without offending their conscious convictions.
It must not, however, be supposed that, because this misguided people refuse elementary
education for their children, they do not give them the best of home training.
The children are intelligent, respective, and observant. The home life is almost ideal.
They are taught all the cardinal virtues with which most of us, as children, were acquainted,
but which are now too often regarded as old-fashioned—such as obedience, reverence, industry,
and thrift; and it is not a little to the credit of their parents to find that the chief objection
they entertain to education is the fear that secular teaching may undermine the religious spirit. T 24 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Whilst dealing with the subject of observance of law, it should be pointed out that all
non-Community Doukhobors—viz., those who, for reasons which will afterwards be considered,
have left the Community and lead an independent life—comply with the registration laws and
the "Schools Act" without the slightest demur; and as the number of these people is considerable, the fact is not without very great significance.
In dealing with this branch of the subject, it is desirable to point out that the Government
of Saskatchewan made no attempt to enforce the laws referred to, or to prosecute the Doukhobors for infringement of their provisions.
The Commissioner discussed this matter fully with Mr. Robert Buchanan, an ex-member
of the local Legislature, and a man who has had extensive dealings with the Doukhobors, and
is probably better acquainted with them than any one else in the North-west.
Mr. Buchanan is a school trustee for his division, and stated that, beyond arguing with
the Doukhobors, and urging them both to register and to send their children to school, no
other steps had been taken,'and he did not feel called upon, having regard to their general
excellence of character, to resort to extreme measures, especially as he contemplated the ultimate
breaking-up of the whole of the community system, and believed that the result would be the
same as in the case of those individuals who had already left—a full compliance with the laws.
Part II.—History of the Community in Saskatchewan.
Trouble about Land Laws and Homestead Entries—Objection of Doukhobors to make Individual Entries—
Dominion Land Commission—Cancellation of all Previous Entries and Demand for New Registrations—
Change of Attitude towards Doukhobors by New Minister of the Interior, Mr. Frank Oliver—Transcript
of Evidence of Peter Verigin before Commission, Dealing with his Agreement with Mr. Sifton— Defection
of upwards of 1,000 Doukhobors, who Left Community and made Individual Entries—Independent
Doukhobors Comply with all Laws—Disaffection within the Community—Younger Generation Seeking
more Liberty—Account-books of Community—Accumulation of Communal Wealth—Favourable Impression of Doukhobors Created on Minds of Canadian Settlers—Valuable Views of Dr. Patrick, of Yorkton,
on Character and Conduct of Doukhobors—R-eport of Peter Verigin and Nicholas Ziberoff, Advising
Exodus to British Columbia—Departure of two Contingents from Verigin and Buchanan, Witnessed by
Commissioner in October, 1912.
The real foundation for the trouble which ultimately led to such strained relations with
the Dominion Government was in connection with the land settlement and titles. It is not
necessary t.o go into all the details of this question. The trouble arose from the fact that,
while, in the first instance, the Doukhobors were allowed to settle en masse on certain reserved
lands, they never grasped the idea that they would ultimately have to comply with the land
laws by making individual entries for each holding.
It is possible that a means would have been devised to obviate this necessity if matters
had progressed satisfactorily from the first, but one trouble after another brought things to a
head, and it was not long before the attention of the Community was drawn to the detailed
requirements of the land laws of the Dominion.
The Doukhobors wished to retain their holdings as a Community; the Government insisted
on individual entries. After considerable delay and much misunderstanding, a Commission
was ultimately appointed to investigate the whole question of the Doukhobor land-holdings.
Formerly, Peter Yerigin had been allowed by the Land Office in Yorkton to make wholesale
entries for individual Doukhobors, members of the Community. The result of the Commission
was generally to condemn this system of entries, and to advise that re-entries should be made
of the whole property.
The Community never recovered from the enforcement of this policy, and to the end fo
their residence in Saskatchewan it continued to be not merely a bone of contention, but one
of their strongest grounds of dissatisfaction. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 25
After the lapse of eight years, Mr. Sifton, who was Minister of the Interior at the time
the Doukhobors came to Canada, had been succeeded by Mr. Frank Oliver. Soon after that
gentleman's assuming office, he took up with Peter Verigin the question of the naturalization
as British subjects of the Doukhobors. Mr. Yerigin pointed out to him that when the
Doukhobors came to Canada this subject had been discussed, and they had received the
assurance of the Minister that they need not be naturalized, and would never be required to
take the oath. Mr. Oliver, on the other hand, pointed out that public opinion had undergone
a change, and that the vagaries of the Doukhobors had led to the determination that they
must be called upon to line up with the other citizens of the Dominion in this regard, and, at
any rate, if they failed to do so, they could not be allowed to retain their land-holdings. Mr.
Yerigin regarded this, and charged it, as a breach of faith, but Mr. Oliver, while complaisant
for a time, stood to his guns ; and as the Doukhobors refused to yield, the result was that all
who failed to make individual entries and become naturalized British subjects were deprived
of their holdings and allowed to settle upon 15 acres of land for each member of the family,
but no title was given to this land, which constituted them tenants at will.
The effect of this decision, when carried out in 1907, was to deprive the Community
Doukhobors of 100,000 acres of land, much of which was under cultivation, and for all of
which they paid at the statutory rate of |10 a homestead.
One can easily understand the spirit of resentment which this engendered among them,
and it is not difficult to believe that it was at this stage that they first conceived the idea of
leaving Saskatchewan and locating elsewhere.
In order to understand the exact position as it appears to the Doukhobors, it may be well
at this point to quote from Peter Yerigin's evidence, given before the Commission at Nelson :—
Mr. Verigin : The Minister of the Interior greeted me and said : "We are waiting impatiently for you
on account of the Doukhobors.    Come quick to the Doukhobor Settlement and pacify them."
Q.—What was the matter?
A.—I felt confused. I did not expect the Minister to come to me, to give me such a position ; this was
against my religious principles to take a position to pacify my countryman. The first time when I came to
•Saskatchewan a thousand people went to make an open propaganda on behalf of the religion of Jesus Christ.
I met them there, and gave them my opinion, and told them they should live together for a little time.
Then I learned the laws of Canada, that every one is given 160 acres of land. I asked the Doukhobors :
" Did you accept that 160 acres?" They said "No." "Why?" "We do not like the climate; they
brought them to a very bad place and left them there in a terrible lot of mosquitoes." Still I thought it was
better to take something and go to work at once ; I thought we had to support the Minister of the Interior,
that we should respect his word. We had to put on our names, but it was very hard, so we put on only
three names of our brethren for the land, Nicholas Ziberoff and Paul Pleneta.
Q.—Those three names stood for all the land taken in Saskatchewan?
A.—Yes ; two thousand homesteads. He warned this Government that the people would not be subject
to the British Government, and they should know that. They said : " That is all right; you will pay $10
for each homestead and you will be given the land." The Doukhobors positively told them they wanted to
remain farmers, not to be subjects of the British Government. I warned the British Government that they
should not spoil the land ; there should not be any misunderstanding in the future.
Q.—Now, I want to know who he gave that warning to?
A.—Mr. Obed Smith, the Commissioner at Winnipeg; and then I was in Ottawa several times and saw
the Minister, and spoke to him about it.
Q.—What Minister?
A.—The Minister of the Interior, Mr. Sifton.
Q.—He told Mr. Obed Smith, the Immigration Commissioner, and the Hon. Mr. Sifton, the Minister
of the Interior, that the condition of the Doukhobors settling in this country was that they would remain
Mr. Johnson : No, farmers.
Q. and would not become British subjects ?
A.—He expressed the opinion that the Doukhobors to the Government in order that there should be
no misunderstanding.
Q.—He expressed his opinion concerning the Doukhobors in those words, in order that there might be
no misunderstanding ?
A.—Yes, sir.
Q.—Was this done by word of mouth or in writing ?
A. —By word of mouth.
Q.—Was any such statement ever put in writing afterwards?
A.—No, never. They paid $20,000; they made such arrangements with the Government, and they
paid $20,000 cash and they left them there. They made §20,000 on the railways there and paid that to the
Mr. Sherbinin : They did not have the money at the time, but they went on the railways and earned
the money, and the women had been ploughing at the time.
Q._Well, we have it that they notified the Government, both the Immigration Commissioner and the
Minister of the Interior, of the attitude they meant to take up in this country. And then they paid their
money and got the land.    Now, let him go on with his story from that point. T 26 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
A.—When the men went to work on the railways, making the $20,000 to pay the Government for
the land, the women and the old men went to plough, twelve pair in a plough.
Q.—While the other men worked on the railway?
A.—Yes. After two years of such work we bought horses, and a part of the land was already cultivated,
and we also bought machines and cultivated a considerable amount of land. After five years the Minister,
Mr. Oliver, gave them the land. I met Mr. Oliver in Winnipeg, and Mr. Smith also. 1 wanted at that
time to go to Russia and asked for letters of introduction. The Minister said: "All right." He sa}'s :
"How are you going to Russia ? Maybe you will remain in Russia." " Now, " he said, ■' the people must
become citizens. I want to give you your land." Mr. Smith said: "And here is the Minister, Mr.
Oliver, here," and he says : "It must be decided on account of the citizenship before you go to Russia."
The Minister said : " Well, that is not important, but," he says, " I do not understand why they should not
become citizens." The Minister said : " It is immaterial, yovi can become citizens or you can not; please
yourselves. What we want is that they should be free to do with themselves what they like, to be citizens
or not."
Q.— Who said that?
A.—Mr. Oliver. For eight years they had the land in their possession; no question was raised about
citizenship; still he said: "I do not understand why you should not become citizens." I had explained
that to Mr. Sifton, but he was a new one, and then I explained it to the new Minister. From Mr. Sifton I
had a paper to work not on the homesteads, but wherever it is the best.
Mr. Johnson: They allowed them to join several homesteads and get a patent for all by working on
Mr. Verigin : Mr. Oliver gave me a nice letter to Europe, but he said in Russia that letter will not be
any good.    Joking, you know.
Q.—What did he want that letter for ?
A.—He says we do not recognize any passports ; he says Mr. Oliver gave a letter of introduction simply
in case I had some trouble.
Q.—-What did he do with the letter?
A.—I did not use that letter ; I was in Russia and saw there the Minister of the Interior, M. Stolypin,
but did not show him that letter; he did not even ask about the passport. " Well," he says, " you go and
you will come back, and we will consider the question of citizenship when you come back from Europe."
In two months after I left Canada the Government sent a Commissioner, McDougall, and cancelled all their
homesteads, and instead of each 160 acres they left 15 acres for each person.
Q.—Do I understand that the Government retook possession of the balance of the land ?
A.—Yes ; opened it for entry.
Q.—And had they paid for the whole amount?    Yes.
Mr. Johnson :   They had paid originally $10 for each homestead under agreement with Mr. Sifton.
Q.—When did that cancellation take place?
A.—About five years ago. The women Doukhobors told the Commissioner : " Aren't you ashamed to
take away the land thus after we have been working so hard ?" He said : " It is not my business, I was
sent by the Government."
Q.—Had they cultivated the whole of this land ?
A.—For the five years they had cultivated more than half.
Q.—Then most of the land that was taken away had actually been cultivated ?
A.—Yes. I did not believe the letters I received from the Doukhobors after I was on such good terms
with the Government; I would not believe that the Minister would deceive me; he said : " When you
come back, then we will consider the question of citizenship." After I had been away two months the
Commissioner came and demanded emphatically :  " Accept citizenship or lose your land."
Mr. Johnson: The fact is they allowed the Doukhobors to take their pick of the cultivated land, and
most of the land taken back was uncultivated land.
Q.—I did not understand that from him?
A.—We had the right to choose the land.
Q.—If they originally had 160 acres each, and they cultivated about half of that	
A.—More than half, more than 10,000 acres.
Q. and they  retained  only  15 acres each,   even  if they selected that 15 acres from the best
cultivated land, they would still be surrendering as much cultivated as uncultivated land.
A.—It was 15 acres per head, every soul got 15 acres.
Q.—Can you get from the witness the total amount of land that was originally taken up by the Community, and the total amount that was retained when a portion was taken from them ?
A.—320,000 acres taken up ; 100,000 taken back. We had meetings continually considering what is to-
be done; it was very hard to make a living on a farm of 15 acres. Then we took an interpreter and went
to look for other land. We came to Nelson four years ago, three of us, and went to Waterloo, and now it
is Brilliant.    We bought that land.
But from the Community's standpoint these untoward events had an even more disastrous
effect, for what with the disaffection which had sprung up on various grounds and the realization of the fact that titles could be acquired only by individual entries, upwards of 1,000
Doukhobors had left the Community and set up on their own account, taking advantage of
the offer of the Government to become naturalized British subjects and acquire homesteads.
They acquired land, established homes, began to accumulate wealth, and, at the time of the
Commissioner's visit, in October last, were among the most prosperous and contented farmers
in the North-west. While this could only be regarded as a calamity from the standpoint of the
Community, it will probably be regarded in an entirely different light by the average Canadian. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 27
For, however much we may deplore the breaking-up of the communal system in which the
members enjoyed many advantages and worked out many social and economic problems, with
a far more satisfactory result than is possible to the individual member of society, we cannot
regard otherwise than with approbation the assimilating effect of Canadian influence and
polity, and we cannot but view with satisfaction the addition of so large a percentage of the
Doukhobor Community, with their high characters and splendid qualifications as settlers, to
the farming community of the Dominion.
It should also be chronicled that, once free from the controlling influences of the Community,
the independent Doukhobor not only complies with the registration laws and the " Schools
Act," but abandons most of the restrictive features of communal life, without, however, losing
his hold on the simplicity of faith which beforetime characterized him. The home life remains
the same; the home training is persevered with on similiar lines. Thrift and industry are
inculcated, simplicity is taught, and luxuries are tabooed; and while it is inevitable that the
young people in particular should secure more liberty and enjoyment, there is no room for
regarding the independent Doukhobor as in any general sense decadent.
Possibly the strongest factor in bringing about this disintegration of the Saskatchewan
Communities rests on economic grounds, and is due to a different environment than that to
which the Doukhobors had been accustomed. In Russia pressure was always from without.
They had to stand as a solid phalanx against persecution. The only safety they knew lay
within the fold ; to wander outside was to be destroyed. But in Canada it is different. The
freedom of our institutions was quickly discerned by them. They realized that if there might
be some sternness, especially for the law-breaker, there would be no injustice.
Then they realized something which was even more potent to break down their communal
walls ; they learnt that they were living in the midst of a civilization that recognized the
claims of a man to the fruits of his toil; they realized that the altruistic spirit, however good
in itself, might be carried too far, or, at any rate, that they were required by their communal
laws to labour hard from one year's end to another to support, at least in a partial degree,
others who neither laboured as hard nor earned as much.
Then the young men in particular rebelled against a system under which every dollar they
earned by the most strenuous toil on the outside must be paid to the Community. To be good
Doukhobors they might not even retain a cent, and if they did so they were dishonest. But
they could not move about among Canadians and work alongside them without realizing
the hardship involved in surrendering the whole of their earnings.
In putting forward this view, I am not losing sight of the corresponding advantages of
the communal system, which are very great, but I am seeking to state what is known to have
influenced many of the Doukhobors, and especially the young men, when leaving the Community. It is hardly possible to conceive that this tendency will not develop, at any rate
when one remembers that within thirteen years something like 20 per cent, of the Community
in Saskatchewan have thus been influenced to leave it. It requires no wide stretch of the
imagination to contemplate the ultimate disintegration of the whole Community.
This brings one to consider the material results of some thirteen years of settlement and
labour on the part of the Doukhobor Communities in Saskatchewan. During the visit of the
Commissioner to Yerigin last October, he was enabled, through the courtesy of Mr. Yerigin
and Mr. Cazakoff, to inspect the books of the Community, when he found that, according to
the schedules attached to the evidence in this Commission, the balance-sheet of the Community,
dated August 13th, 1912, shows total assets of $332,300. This includes 12,500 acres of land,
which the Community has purchased from private owners, principally from the Hudson's Bay
Company, at $15 an acre.
This valuation does not include the property owned by the separate villages, which,
although Community property, is administered by the villagers themselves. What the latter
valuation might amount to is uncertain, although there is no reason to doubt that it would
double that of the Central Fund.
During the same financial period—that is, the year ending August last—the total income
of the Central Fund was $342,099.31, and the total expenditures $375,999.56. These figures
show the extent of the property-holdings of the Community in Saskatchewan, and the amount of
business done, although I am informed by competent authorities that the land-valuations in
particular are very low, and that probably $40 per acre would be nearer the correct value
than the $15 at which they were estimated. T 28 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
The books of the Community are well kept; there is a ledger account for every individual,
showing his contribution to the Central Fund, and a ledger account for each village, showing
its dealings with the Central Fund. The Central Fund is administered under the direction of
Peter Yerigin and the management of Michael Cazakoff for the benefit of the whole Community,
and really represents the Communal Fund. The village property, following the traditional
custom of the Russian Mir, belongs to each individual village and is managed by a village
The relation between the villages and the Central Fund is maintained by an annual levy,
which at present stands at $200 per annum for each man. From this Central Fund all
Community lands have been purchased, and by its means the exodus of the Doukhobors to
British Columbia and their establishment in their new home there was financed.
It is four years since the first exodus took place, when something like 2,000 left Saskatchewan for British Columbia, In October last, when the Commissioner was at Yerigin and
Buchanan, we witnessed the departure of 2,000 more, and at the time of writing this Report
there are only about 2,500 left in the Verigin District of Saskatchewan, whilst the total number
in British Columbia may be set at 5,000.
The departure of these people was a sight never to be forgotten, especially when one
recalled their history in Russia, the hardships they had endured, the treks they had been
forced to make, and the restless spirit which had even pursued them. Only thirteen years ago
they came to Canada as to a promised land. It was to be their El Dorado. They felt that
they had reached the end of all their earthly troubles. They were to be subjected to no
interference; they were to taste of a freedom of which they had heard and which they little
understood. Peace, prosperity, and happiness lay in front of them, and while their
acknowledged leader was working out his dreary term of imprisonment in the Province of
Tobolst, Siberia, his aged mother was wistfully waiting in her new home at Verigin for the
arrival of her son.
He came, and again the hopes of the Community rose. With his advent; with his cool,
clever head and strong right arm ; with his indomitable courage and fearless will, they would
come to the end of the troubles which had already threatened to overwhelm them in the land
of their adoption. He came. They acknowledged his leadership. The troubles he quelled were
those of internal origin, and even these resisted him in part, and he lost many of his followers.
It was a strange sight, the conjunction of this world-old people, of strong and rugged
frame, with child at breast and burden on back, with sturdy women and sturdier men, collecting
a few household goods, lingering about the station platform for hours in a drizzling rain, packed
with the utmost discomfort into the colonist cars of a long train, and whirled away a thousand
miles to their new destination. No wonder that there were many tears and much distress, for,
after all, home is home, and in one decade its joys and sorrows may consecrate it.
Once again, at the bidding of a leader, they were going out to a land which they knew
not, except that the spies had brought a good report, and while those of us who read this report
know that, so far as material conditions and surroundings are concerned, they were going to a
more congenial clime and possibly to better prospects, it was impossible to suppress a feeling
of profound sympathy for a people so often and so sorely tried.
And now, at the end of a little more than one decade, this people once more have to face
another long "trek," with the same accompanying conditions as signalized their departure from
the land of their birth and persecution, for in each -case it meant the abandoning of home and
land, and without compensation—the homes they had built, the land they had cultivated, must
be left behind for the new-comer and they would reap no benefit.
Record must be made of the impression created on the minds of the Canadian farming
community in Saskatchewan by their Doukhobor neighbours.
The Commissioner had many opportunities, during his visit last fall, to discuss this
subject with leading men in Yorkton, Buchanan, and Prince Albert.
There was perfect unanimity of opinion as to the excellent character, the industry, the
thrift, and the phenomenal farming skill of the Doukhobors. They were spoken of everywhere
as kind, hospitable, and gentle, as never known to quarrel, or to break any of the laws, except
the registration laws and the "Schools Act."
One of the leading citizens in Buchanan, in commenting on the breaking-up of the local
Community, told the Commissioner that it was a sorry day for that section of the country to
see the Doukhobors going away. Their little peculiarities had hurt nobody, and they were
the best class of settlers he had ever met with. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 29
The Commissioner also discussed the subject with a number of Canadian women, and
found that they were most sympathetic towards their Doukhobor sisters. They spoke in the
highest terms of their motherliness and affection, of their domestic virtues, and their devotion
to religion.
Dr. Patrick, of Yorkton, who has had special opportunities of seeing these people from
the time of their arrival in Saskatchewan, and who has frequently rendered them medical
service, is enthusiastic in their praise, whilst fully alive to their limitations.
A reference to his evidence will show that he regards the key-note of their conduct as a
refusal " to acknowledge obligation to any one outside his Community. He wants his own
particular regulations, customs, laws, his own private law in the midst of the national law.
He is led by a leader who is able and shrewd and quite willing to lead, and whom he believes
to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. The mere fact that his leader may exhibit imperfections
does not shake his belief in him, for there is a convenient Doukhobor doctrine that a certain
amount of wickedness is necessary in their reincarnated Christ, to prevent a repetition of his
crucifixion. So that, in dealing with the Doukhobors, we are dealing with a people whose
conceptions are those of Russian peasants, and whose leader is their Ruler, or Tzar, by Divine
right, and whose policy, no matter how contradictory or absurd it may appear to others, is to
them divinely inspired."
Dr. Patrick's final comment upon the working of the community system in Saskatchewan
is worthy of note.    He says :—
Possibly their rather extensive experiments in communism will ultimately redound to the benefit of the
country, if only in the negative way of proving, once again, that community of lands and goods is possible
only among celibates ; for, even among Doukhobors, the industrious and effective are not altogether content
to contribute more than they withdraw in order that the indolent and ineffective may withdraw more than
they contribute to the common wealth.
The most instructive comment which one may have on this latest exodus, which may be
the last, is to read a paragraph from the report of the general meeting of the Doukhobor
Community, held at Yerigin, Saskatchewan, January 25th, 1910, which sets forth exactly what
Peter Verigin and Nicholas Zibiroff, who had visited British Columbia in order to report to
the Community, had to say about the Province to which they were taking them.
Nothing is said in this section of the reasons for leaving Saskatchewan, but these have
been sufficiently canvassed in this chapter, and no one who has followed it will fail to understand why the last West trek of the Doukhobors was made.    The section is as follows :—
The question was raised before the meeting in regard to the emigration to British Columbia. It was
definitely shown that in Saskatchewan, where the Doukhobors live at present, in consequence of wide
prairies lying a considerable distance from the sea, the climate in winter is very dry and cold. Temperature
is often 30° Reaumur, and therefore some sickness prevails, such as coughs and rheumatism. Emigration to-
British Columbia was decided as most necessary.
A particular report of the British Columbia climate was submitted by Peter Verigin and .by Nicholas
Zibiroff, delegated from British Columbia. The first party of Community Doukhobors emigrated to British
Columbia for the purpose of starting work and are living there for two years. They have found the climate
exceedingly mild in winter, temperature not being over 15° Reaumur. This occurs about ten times all
winter, but generally temperature is 3, 5, and 7 degrees below zero Reaumur, and sometimes 2, 3, and 7
above zero Reaumur.
In consequence of the mountains, the water for drinking is very pure, and the air also is very clear and
healthy. The reporter, Peter Verigin, is under the impression that the air and waters are similar to those
in Switzerland in nature, and even much healthier. Therefore, with a view to becoming healthier, emigration to British Columbia has been decided and possibly sooner than intended.
In British Columbia it is possible to grow fruits of nearly all kinds—apples, pears, plums, cherries, etc.
Small fruits and vegetables are grown wonderfully well. The Community have already bought about 10,00C>
acres of fruit lands.    There is splendid timber on it for building purposes. T 30 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Attractions of British Columbia—Favourable Climate and Fruit-growing Possibilities—Chances for Profitable
Investment in Land—Advantages of Abundant Communal Labour—All Land Purchased from Private
Individuals—Peter Verigin Claims this Gave Doukhobors Immunity from Observing Certain Laws—
Total of 14,403 Acres Acquired at Cost of $646,017—Cost of Transferring Doukhobors to British
Columbia Upwards of $200,000—Great Intelligence shown in Acquiring Knowledge of New Industry,
Fruit-growing—Vineyard Successfully Established in the Open at Grand Forks—Verigin in Full
Control, with Sherbinin and Zibiroff as Local Business Managers—Waterworks and Electric-light
Systems Established—Sawmills Erected on all Settlements—Brickworks in Operation at Grand
Forks—Jam-factory Purchased and Operated at Nelson—Doukhobors found Satisfactory in Business
Relations—Refusal to Obey Registration Laws Leads to Prosecutions and Imprisonment of Doukhobors
at Grand Forks—This made the Pretext for Abandoning Schools—Letter from Chief of Police Dinsmore
Chronicling Peter Verigin's Refusal to Obey Laws—Letter from Deputy Attorney-General Asserting
Determination of Government to Insist Upon Observance of Laws—Complete Census of the Doukhobors
in British Columbia up to October 22nd, 1912.
With the exodus of the Doukhobors to British Columbia, a new chapter opened in the
history of this harassed people. Through all their wanderings, the guiding hand of Peter
Verigin must be recognized. It was on his advice, after consultation with Count Tolstoi and
other friends, that the faces of his people were first turned to the New World. He was the
guiding spirit who controlled their destinies and ruled their lives during their thirteen to
fourteen years' residence in Saskatchewan; and it was he who, looking farther afield for a
country in which they could at once escape from the rigours of climate and other natural
discomforts, as well as from a continual state of friction with the Dominion Government,
discovered the Promised Land into which he has led them.
The favourable conditions which so impressed Verigin and Zibiroff are cited in the
memorandum quoted in the previous chapter, and turned principally upon the climate, the
fresh-water supply from the mountains, and the possibilities of engaging on fruit-growing on a
large scale.
There is no doubt that the climate of Saskatchewan was a great disappointment to the
Doukhobors. While they had many hardships to contend with in the Transcaucasian
Provinces, they were not subjected to such extremes of temperature as confronted them in
Saskatchewan. Then, in Russia, they had developed mixed farming, and had become stock-
raisers.    Indeed, the latter branch of farming occupied most of their attention.
In Saskatchewan they found that the conditions were not favourable for anything but
grain-growing, except on a limited scale, and they were always hankering for a more moderate
climate in which they could revert to the occupation to which they had been accustomed in
their Mother-land.
To this must be added the fact that British Columbia was just now assuming a foremost
place as a great fruit-producer, and that fruit-growing is a less onerous occupation than almost
any other branch of husbandry.
There is no doubt that Peter Verigin, a man of extreme shrewdness, who had familiarized
himself with all the conditions existing in British Columbia, realized not only that his people
would be more happy and contented with an occupation that appealed to them, in a climate
which subjected them to no extremes, but he also saw the possibility of doing on a large scale,
by the aid of communal labour, what had already been effected on a small scale by many
investors in British Columbia—the purchase of uncleared land at a nominal price, its development to the condition of a full-bearing orchard, with a rise in values which might range anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars per acre.
No people in Canada could effect this so surely as the Doukhobors. They could place
several thousand pairs of hands on the land, would take nothing from it but their sustenance,
and would require no cash compensation for this labour, but they would add almost fabulous
sums to the value of the land, year by year, until it reached a state of fruition.
According to the evidence of Peter Verigin before the Commission at Nelson, there may
have been another thought lying beneath this exodus.
The lands which the Doukhobors acquired in Saskatchewan had caused them endless
trouble, because they had been unable to qualify and obtain titles from the Government. They
proposed to solve this problem by coming to British Columbia and purchasing their lands from
private individuals, and with the lands would naturally go the Crown grants which these 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 31
individuals had obtained. There could therefore be no ground for contention with the
Provincial Government in respect to the land titles ; and, once clearly established on their own
property, they would possess a solidarity and resilience to which they could never attain under
the conditions that prevailed in Saskatchewan.
Peter Verigin went further in his evidence, and claimed, what it is difficult to accept, viz. :
That the Doukhobors were under the impression that by acquiring title to the British Columbia
lands from private individuals they acquired some immunity from the obligation to obey the
The line of argument he adopted in supporting this contention is not easy to follow, and
would appear to be altogether too weak to do justice to the intelligence of a man of Mr.
Verigin's calibre.
If the Doukhobors came to British Columbia under such impression, it is not conceivable
that it was so assumed by Mr. Verigin; and it was, further, his duty to have advised them fully
in the premises.
This contention was put forward as an excuse for claiming exemption from the operation
of the registration laws and of the "Schools Act"; but, as will be seen when the evidence
comes to be analysed, it is hardly entitled to respect, and is mentioned at this point only in
order to fully canvass the situation as it existed, and the views expressed by the Doukhobors,
at the time they came to British Columbia.
In the spring of 1909, the first lands of the Brilliant Colony in British Columbia were
acquired, on the banks of the Columbia River, three miles south of Castlegar, near the old
gold-mining camp known as the "Waterloo Camp."
A complete list of the land-holdings of the Doukhobors in British Columbia at the date
of this Report is attached as an Appendix to the evidence "herein. It shows that the acreage
owned by the Community has grown since the first purchase on March 2nd, 1909, to a total
of 14,403 acres, the total purchase price of which amounts to $646,017; and the amount
remaining unpaid stands in the books at $321,079.
In estimating the wealth of the Doukhobor Community, and taking stock of their thirteen years' work in Canada, one must bear in mind, first of all, the valuation of property in
Saskatchewan, referred to in a previous chapter; then the valuation of land and stock in
British Columbia; and, further, it must be remembered that no less a sum than $200,000 has
ben expended in transferring their homes from Saskatchewan to British Columbia.
A map showing the extent and location of all the present holdings of the Community is
attached. From this it will be seen that at this date there are four Settlements—one at
Brilliant, on the banks of the Columbia River, containing 3,649 acres; one at Glade, on the
bank of the Kootenay River, and only a short distance east of Brilliant, containing 1,092
acres; one at Grand Forks, on the immediate boundary of the city, where there are the best-
developed orchards in the country, containing 4,182 acres; and one at Pass Creek, some fifteen
miles north of Brilliant, which is in the earliest stages of clearing and development, and containing 2,465 acres.
There are also 527 acres on the North Fork of Kettle River; at Champion, south of
Brilliant, 927 acres; in Crescent Valley, 1,320 acres; on Slocan River, exclusive of Crescent
Valley, and between the latter and Slocan City, 837 acres; and on the Kootenay River, west
of Nelson, 321 acres.
A copy of the list of properties purchased by the Community, furnished to the Commissioner,
is appended to the evidence.
There are also accompanying this Report a number of photographs, taken by the official
photographer of the Commission to illustrate the various stages of cultivation and clearing.
That of Grand Forks shows orchards from fifteen to twenty years old and in full bearing,
and others five years old and just beginning to bear.
The photograph of the Brilliant Settlement shows the work of barely four years, for
practically the whole of this Settlement was then forest. It is now cleared, planted with
apple-trees, and the ingenious manager has left a few tall pines, which he has stripped of their
branches, to show what the condition was when the land was taken possession of.
A long panoramic view of the Glade Settlement is, perhaps, the most interesting of all, as
it shows every stage of clearing and cultivation, from the hewing-down of the trees and the
burning of brush to the clearing-away of all stones and stumps, and ploughing and
harrowing, ready for the seed. T 32 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
On the photographs of Brilliant and Glade will be noticed a number of houses, in pairs,,
which illustrates the system of home-building adopted by the Community. Of this more will
be said when the question of their habits and home life is considered.
A glance will suffice to show that an enormous amount of work has been done in a short
time. The clearing alone would have been impossible to private individuals. It is the
abundance of Community labour that has achieved such marvellous results.
The energy and enterprise of the Community have excited general admiration, and even
at this stage it is permissible to say that, but for the unfortunate friction that has arisen in
connection with the non-observance of certain laws, there would be nothing but praise for the
Doukhobor settlers.
This extensive Settlement has been financed through the genius of Peter Yerigin by the
Saskatchewan Central Fund. This fund furnished the means of making the first payments on
all land-purchases, and really formed the backbone of the financial scheme.
In addition the villages each contributed members to the new Community, and also sent
a considerable quantity of stock, implements, and appliances. Indeed, the communal system
gave'them control of many things that were needed and which otherwise must have been
With the 2,000 people who constituted the first land-settlement came a number of the
older members of the Community, thus ensuring a continuity of policy, tradition, and teaching.
Peter Yerigin, /who divided his time between Saskatchewan and British Columbia,
exercised close supervision over all the affairs of his people, selected a ranch-house on the
Grand Forks property, and made it his home in British Columbia. It is a home of which any
man might be proud, being situated in the midst of a splendid orchard, with flower-gardens,
kitchen-garden, lawns, stables, barns, outhouses, and all the concomitants of an up-to-date,
high-class farm home.
Near by is the home of Mr. Nicholas Zibiroff, an old and highly respected member of the
Community, who was selected as one of the first visitors to British Columbia to report on the
land.    He is now the local manager of the Grand Forks Settlement.
While much of this Settlement consists of developed orchard land, there are some hundreds
of acres of the roughest and wildest land—some of it being in the process of clearing and
cultivation, and all of it said to be capable of carrying high-grade fruit orchards.
Perhaps it is not out of place at this point to comment on the wonderful success that has
attended the fruit-growing operations of the Doukhobors.
To them it was a new industry. They had never been engaged in it before coming to
British Columbia. Yet, to-day, if you were to go through their orchards, you would find that
they are the cleanest, the best-kept, and the heaviest-cropped of any in the district, whilst they
have solved the problem, not previously attempted by any other fruit-grower—that of
On a hill-slope in the Grand Forks Settlement is a vineyard in full bearing, in the open,
from which it is claimed 20 tons of grapes were taken during the season of 1912. A
photograph of this will be found accompanying this Report.
Another feature worthy of comment is the remarkable skill the Doukhobors have developed
in grafting fruit-trees. They explained to the Commissioner that Mr. Verigin himself taught
them, and repeated the operation until they had acquired skill. The result is that in a young
orchard containing 50,000 plants they have not lost one.
With reference to the Brilliant Settlement, the soil there is very rich, and excellent
progress has been made with clearing and planting. There are those who think it will prove
more fertile than the Grand Forks Settlement. That remains to be seen. At any rate, it is
being developed in the most intelligent and energetic manner, under the management of Mr.
John W. Sherbinin, who is the business manager of all the Settlements, except that of Grand
Forks, and who resides in a new residence built for him by the Doukhobors at Brilliant,
situated on the Canadian Pacific Railway line.
In addition to the business of land-cultivation, the Doukhobors have manifested a spirit
of enterprise at Brilliant by putting in a splendid concrete reservoir capable of holding 1,000,000
gallons of water, and from this reservoir the water is being piped all over the Settlement. It
is to be used both for domestic purposes and irrigation.
The reservoir will be supplied partially from a creek in the mountains, and partially by
an immense pumping plant which the Doukhobors have erected at the extremity of the Settle- 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 33
ment, on the banks of the Kootenay River. This is the largest pumping plant in British
Columbia, and will not only pump water to the reservoir, but will generate light for use
throughout the Settlements.
The Glade Settlement, as already stated, is in the earliest stages of cultivation. In fact,
it is not yet completely cleared. It is delightfully situated on the south bank of the Kootenay
River, being a long narrow strip of fertile land. At the present rate of clearing the whole of
this will be planted in 1913.
Pass Creek lands are the latest cleared, and show the least development; but now that
there has been an augmentation, due to the recent arrivals, clearing will proceed more quickly,
and considerable planting will be done next year.
It is the intention of the Doukhobors to convert all their lands into fruit-growing lands,
reserving only small areas to produce vegetables and a little hay and oats for their cattle.
Besides the farming industry, the Doukhobors have established sawmills on all their
properties, which are used chiefly to convert the timber into building material for use on their
own lands. They have also a good brick-making works at Grand Forks, which is producing a
high-class brick, commanding a ready sale. This brick is being used in the new Government
Buildings at Grand Forks, which is a fair testimony as to its quality.
The Doukhobors own one other industry in British Columbia, in the form of a jam-factory
at Nelson. This property formerly belonged to the Kootenay Preserving Company, but was
purchased from them by the Doukhobors, and is now a valuable asset. It is their intention
to establish other similar factories at Brilliant and Grand Forks, in order to provide a market
for certain classes of fruit which cannot be disposed of to advantage in a natural state.
So far as material advancement is concerned, this would seem to be a fairly satisfactory
record for four years : The purchase of more than 14,000 acres of land, the payment of 50 per
cent, of its cost, running at $325,000 ; the transfer, at a cost of $200,000, of a community
exceeding 5,000 in number, from Saskatchewan to British Columbia ; the planting of several
thousand acres of fruit-trees on ground of their own clearing ; and the successful establishing
of at least three independent industries. And, alongside this, a record for paying their debts
with at least average promptness, and a reputation for commercial integrity which makes them
the most-sought-after and probably the most-trusted trading company (for that is what they
call themselves) in the Province.
Of the latter, the Commissioner met with several striking instances, such as the purchase
of large areas of land without any written agreement, with nothing but a verbal arrangement ; and yet, as shown by the evidence, the punctual meeting of all obligations of purchase.
If everything had been as satisfactory as the business relations of the Doukhobors, there
would have- been none of the friction that has unfortunately arisen, but they have persistently
maintained an attitude of hostility to the registration laws and the " Schools Act."
Dealing with the latter first, it may be stated, briefly, that for some time no attempt was
made to send their children to school. Then, under pressure from the school authorities, the
Doukhobors agreed that the children of Grand Forks Settlement should attend the public
school, and that they would build a school-house on the Brilliant Settlement. As the details
of these transactions will have to be commented upon in another chapter, it is sufficient to say
here that they commenced well in both cases, but after one term at Brilliant they closed the
school, and after less than twelve months' attendance at the Grand Forks School they withdrew their children. The ground upon which they did this was that some of their people had
been prosecuted and imprisoned for disobedience of the registration laws.
When this question comes to be discussed it will be found that there were other reasons
as well. But, in any event, there was no further attendance of Doukhobor children at the
public schools.
This precipitated some definite action on the part of the Government to meet the
Another matter which demanded investigation was the refusal of the Doukhobors, at
Grand Forks in particular, to register deaths.
In consequence of repeated refusals, prosecutions were ultimately instituted, and Nichola
Zebin, John Negraff, John Domaska, and Wessel Domaska were charged before the Magistrate
at Grand Forks and pleaded guilty to a violation of the " Births, Deaths, and Marriages
Registration Act." They were sentenced to three months' imprisonment in the Nelson Gaol,
and this action so aroused the hostility of the Doukhobors that a high state of friction was
engendered between them and the citizens of Grand Forks. This prosecution led to a general
C T 34 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
inquiry, and it was found that there had been practically no compliance with the registration
laws by any of the Community Doukhobors.
Mr. J. A. Dinsmore, Chief Constable of the Grand Forks District, had an interview with
Peter Yerigin for the purpose of endeavouring, if possible, to bring about an amicable compliance with the law. In a letter dated July 13th, 1912, and addressed to the Deputy Attorney-
General, Victoria, Mr. Dinsmore says :—
In an interview with Peter Verigin, the leader of the Doukhobor Society, he informed me that the
Doukhobor Society had a large meeting, and they decioed they would not comply with the "Births, Deaths,
and Marriages Registration Act."
I also took up the question and served notices on these people for the destruction of noxious weeds
growing on their properties, and they also refused to comply with the " Noxious Weeds Act."
As illustrating the attitude of the Government on this matter, it may be well to quote
in extenso the following letter, written by the Deputy Attorney-General on July 20th, 1910,
to Mr. Dinsmore :—
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant, reporting on the doings
of the Doukhobor Society at Grand Forks. You may inform Mr. Verigin, the leader of the Society, that
the laws of Britiih Columb.a must be obeyed by him and his associates, as well as by any other persons in
the Province, and that the provisions of the "Noxious Weeds Act," as well as the "Births, Deaths, and
Marriages Act," will be strictly carried out, without any favour being shown to him and members of his
It may also serve to throw a little light on the subject if the statement of the Doukhobor
Community, addressed to the Government of British Columbia at the time of these prosecutions,
is quoted.    It is as follows :—
The Christian Community or Universal Brotherhood Doukhobors in Canada.
Brilliant, B.C., July 16th, 1912.
The. Government cf British Columbia.
To the Chief Police Officer,  Victoria, B. C.
From the Doukhobor Community located around
Nelson and Grand- Forks, B.C.
Dear Sir,—We beg to acknowledge you, lately from our Community at Grand Forks, five men were
put into the gaol, just because they did not report of the dead body of their relation. And by thus consequence we calculate it necessary to explain you our opinion of life.
The foundation of our religion concludes to believe into divinity power, at will which forming and
holding all the world. Jesus Christ brought light intellection to the earth. We calculate that Jesus Christ
Heaven comer from Anarchic Father Spirit, but in body Christ birth came from Mary (human woman).
Jesus Christ brought intellection of eternal divinity power, and therefore a man seeing that teaching,
he himself can step over to eternal life. Second commandment of Christ : People should live on the earth
pious and peaceful.
We believe that the favourable adorable power is ruling all the world and endeavour to be written in
eternal life book, and propose ourselves obligation to live quietly and to employ honest labour on the earth,
so as to get substance. All the human ra.;e registration we calculate unnecessary. We can say, briefly,
our religion confines on two commandments to be gentle and to employ agriculture.
Spending of four years' time in British Columbia around Nelson and Grand Forks, B.C., employing
early agriculture, and by hard labour have cleared more than 1,000 acres of land, and have planted with the
orchard about 70,000 trees, with the most better kinds of fruit-trees—apples, pears, plums, cherries, and
The proof that we sincerely wish to be peaceful people is this, for four flowing years not one criminal
question were about the Doukhobors.
We calculate the Government and especially police manages, no matter which country, only for the
pacification of wicked people; therefore we conclusively ask you forsake, leave us in peace to occupy
peacefully agricultural work in the Province of British Columbia. We promise to live peacefully and quietlj',
and ask you as so police should not mix into our life whatever by no business, because we wish to be citizens
of all the world.
At the present time there are more than 2,000 people in British Columbia, and we all ask you in Jesus
Christ's name to free our brothers—namely, Nicholas Zeibin, Vasily Demovsky, Evan Demovsky, Evan
Negreiff, and Feodor Gritchin—for peaceful agricultural work to the present summer.
The Deputation or the Doukhokor Community,
Nelson and Grand Forks, B.C.
LWV. (Signed.)       Andpeu Tpugrusez (?).    Mrs. Anpocusur Communioco (?).
This was the state of affairs when the Royal Commission was issued by His Honour the
Lieutenant-Governor, and gives a brief synopsis of the course of events from the first entry of
the Doukhobors into British Columbia down to that date.
It may be interesting if at this point a complete census of the Doukhobors in British
Columbia is given. The census was taken by Mr. J. W. Sherbinin and guaranteed by him as
correct. It includes the recent arrivals from Saskatchewan, whose exodus was described in a
preceding chapter. 3 Geo. 5
Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors.
T 35
Census op Doukhobors  in  British Columbia up to October 22nd, 1912.
No. of
No. of
No. of
No. of
No.  of  Married Couples.
No. of
BrilliantSettlement and other smaller surrounding Settlements....
Champion Creek Settlement	
Crescent Valley Settlement	
Notts.—The acquisition of the areas at Champion to the south of Brilliant, in Crescent Valley, and
between the latter place and Slocan City, had not been completed at the time the statement mentioned
herein was prepared and handed to the Commissioner, and in consequence cannot be shown on the map
attached hereto nor the additional cost given. The total acreage, however, is thus increased by about 1,000
acres. T 36 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Foundation of Communal System, the Russian Mir—Preference of Doukhobors for this System—Implicit
Obedience Yielded to Verigin as Head—Serious Split in Community over Homestead Titles in Saskatchewan—First Establishment of Individualism—Defection of 1,000 Adherents—How Property, Real
and Personal, is Held—Village Communities and Central Fund—Accounts Strictly Kept and Business
Well Managed—Strength of Community Lies in Influence of Leader—Loyalty of Doukhobor Women to
their Leader—Prosperity of Independent Doukhobors—Further Defections from Community in British
Columbia—Methods of Adjusting Claims of Doukhobors who Leave the Community—Why those who
Left since Coming to British Columbia Unable to Obtain their Share—Method of Distributing Goods of
Community—System of Land Tenure in British Columbia—All Lands vested in Verigin and Others as
Trustees—No Trust Deed in Existence—Verigin Makes Will in Favour of Community—Some Better
Adjustment of Titles Necessary.
For many centuries, the Russian peasant has lived exclusively the life of the Mir. He
knew of no rights save such as he held by his Commune, recognized no duties save those he
owed to his Commune.
The rights and privileges of such a Commune are, in accordance with ancient custom,
necessarily numerous and extensive. In its capacity of association, it is a civil person. It
can buy, lease, sell, rent land; more than that, it has its own particular regulations, customs,
laws, which are binding within its own pale. It has its own private law in the midst of
national law, as pledging its private members before the State. It wields for them the right
of correction and expulsion, controls their goings-out and their comings-in—in fact, holds them
in a sort of tutelage.
To be a member of such a community it is not enough to transfer one's residence to it.
Admission can take place only by the consent of all those interested in the transaction. The
Russian Commune is a closed association, with neither ingress nor egress free. Absent or
present, nomadic or sedentary, the members of the Mir are still, in great measure, responsible
to one another. They have their judges and their rustic courts of justice, as they have their
traditional customs—very different from the civil rights applied to other classes.
Lastly, in its capacity of holder of the soil, the Commune has over the peasants the rights
that a landlord has over his tenants, and can impose upon them such conditions as it pleases.
This is practically a summary of the composition of the Commune in Russia, taken from
Ragozin's translation of "Empire of the Tzars and the Russias," by Anatole Leroy Beaulieu.
From time immemorial the Village Commune, or Mir, has been a unique Slavonic
institution. This form of government includes five-sixths of the entire population in European
Russia, and is one of the most democratic in the world.
Without any written law, its authority is recognized as equally binding upon every
member of the Community. The methods of every Community vary, but some salient features
are common to them all.
The peasants all live in villages and farm the adjacent land. The Mir was primarily
instituted in order to secure payment of taxes to the Imperial Government, and each village
is held responsible for a certain sum—so much in many cases as to impoverish it.
The Village Assembly is composed of heads of households, who meet frequently, preferably
on the first day of the week, to discuss the affairs, civil and domestic, of the Community.
An elder is selected from the peasants of the Assembly, whose duty corresponds somewhat
to those of a cbairman or speaker in an English-speaking gathering.
Among those communities that have no religious scruples such as the Doukhobors have,
affecting obedience to the registration laws and military service, the Mir supplies conscripts to
the standing army, and has power to banish its members to Siberia, or to call them home from
any place where they have settled. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 37
Of course, these privileges were lost by the Doukhobors when they assumed a position of
hostility to the Government, but they continued to live on the communal system, and in all
matters except those specified to carry on the customs of the Mir.
One curious feature of this institution is the unreserved obedience which its members
yield to its decision. There have been many cases where peasants have set at defiance the
power of the police, of the Brovincial Government, and of the Central Government itself, but
not a single instance is on record where the will of the Mir was opposed by its members.
In working out the communal system in Russia, whilst its advantages have been great, it
has not been without some disadvantages, which are reflected in the present conditions
prevailing among the Doukhobors in Canada. For instance, when the redistribution of land
has taken place, those who have improved their shares by cultivation have lost the benefit of
their labour because they have often been transferred to land which has not been equally well
The members of a family all form together, year by year, when at home, and when earning
money elsewhere are expected to pay that money into a common purse.
The households composing the Village Commune farm independently,' and pay into the
common treasury a fixed sum.
The Russian peasant may live most of his life in towns, but he never severs his connection
with his village. He remains, whether he desires it or not, a member of the Commune,
possessing a share of the communal property and liable for a share of the communal burden.
The Doukhobor in Canada apparently prefers the form of government he was used to in
his native land. He came to Canada absolutely without any conception of individual ownership of land. This was clearly shown by the fact that he stubbornly refused, even when it
came to a question of losing his homestead, to make individual entries in Saskatchewan. At
least six-sevenths of the Community refused, and, as related in a previous chapter, only about
1,000 succumbed to the temptation of the offer of the Government to become British subjects
and make individual land entries.
Those who left the Community are naturally criticized by those who remain. They are
regarded as traitors to the traditional beliefs of the Doukhobors, and Peter Verigin went as
far in his evidence as to say that he regarded the offer of the Dominion Government as a bribe.
In any event, the fact that the offer was accepted by such a substantial number marks a great
advance from the attitude of the Russian peasant towards land-holding, and also demonstrates
the possibility of a still larger number assimilating the Canadian idea on the subject in the
But, with respect to the large majority of the Doukhobors, one has to consider them in
their present relation to communal life, because the Doukhobors differ from the ordinary
Russian peasant, in that his conception of government is theocratic. Peter Verigin is to him
the supreme law. He wishes to recognize no duties save those he owes to his Community and
to his leader. He wants his own particular regulations, customs, laws, his own private law in
the midst of the national law.
Yielding obedience to Peter Verigin, they all authorized him to enter for homesteads for
them. Later on, when other influences began to work, and some of the Doukhobors wished
to act for themselves, efforts were made by the Community to frustrate them in their intentions.
In this way, homestead entries which had been made en bloc were cancelled in some individual
cases without the knowledge of the Doukhobor in whose name the entry had originally been
One Ivan Shukin was thus deprived of his homestead, but he refused to bow to his
leader's will, and with the assistance of outsiders his entry was restored, and his certificate of
title issued in due course.
In another case, Community Doukhobors invaded the homestead of one of their fellows
who had become independent, and cut down and carried off timber for the use of their village.
The marauders were promptly prosecuted, convicted, and punished, and the effect of this was
that some of the Doukhobors began to realize, for the first time, that in the eyes of the
Canadian law, and not the- Village or Community, was the owner of the land, and that in this
particular matter Peter Verigin had no authority.
It was after these repeated disturbances that the Dominion Government Doukhobor
Commission was appointed to investigate the whole question of land-settlement, and the result
was the cancellation of all Doukhobor entries for homesteads, and the granting of the privilege
of re-entering in person without the intervention of Peter Verigin. T 38 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Naturally, the leader made every possible effort to have all the reserved lands set apart
en bloc for those who still wished to remain in the Community. With each little village
surrounded by independent Doukhobors, enjoying more prosperity and more freedom than the
Communists, with settlers of other nationalities constantly coming into contact with them, with
new school districts being organized, to include within their boundaries part of the reserves,
with all the influences, both consciously and unconsciously, brought to bear on the Communists
on the outside, Peter Verigin found his own influence and authority steadily on the wane.
What Russian tyranny had utterly failed to do—break up the Community—Canadian
freedom may effect. . Persecution is fuel to the flames of fanaticism. Withdraw the fuel, and
the fire dies out.
This may throw a new light on the real reason for the removal of the Doukhobors to
British Columbia. It shows how, in very material respects, the organization has failed to hold
its own in Saskatchewan when subjected to the disintegrating influences of a free civilization.
The leader has tried to protect them from these influences by opposing the organization
of schools, although he wrote from Russia favouring elementary education, and although he
has since stated before the Commissioner at Nelson that he believes in elementary schools, and
that he would use his influence to induce the Doukhobors to support them.
But it is obvious that the narrow valleys of British Columbia afford a better chance to
isolate the Doukhobors from these disintegrating influences than could be afforded by the wide
prairies of Saskatchewan.
Whether the organization will be more effective in British Columbia remains to be seen.
It has been planted there on the lines of the Russion community system. All the features of
Russian communal life, except living in villages, have been introduced. There is the same
head in Peter Verigin. There are the same different groups of assemblies, which meet weekly.
The assemblies choose their elder, who transacts business on their behalf. The assemblies
assign the duties of each individual for the coming year and deal with all matters affecting the
domestic and industrial life of its members.
All moneys earned on the outside are supposed to be paid into the Central Fund intact.
Any moneys withheld are, according to Doukhobor law, wrongly withheld. But while there
is, especially on the part of the older members, an almost implicit obedience to these laws,
there has already been such open violation of some of them, and such discontent over others,
as to lead to secession from the Community ever since it was established in British Columbia.
No doubt it is the intention of Peter Verigin to re-establish, in all its fullness, the communal life as it was lived by the strict Doukhobors in Russia. It is a difficult problem to
work out, and evidences are not entirely in favour of its success.
From a material standpoint, the Doukhobors in British Columbia have already demonstrated
that, under the communal system, they can clear and cultivate land, develop production, and
amass wealth at a far greater rate than is possible on any individual system. But the question
is : How long will the majority be content for this wealth to be amassed for the Community,
and not for the individual 1    That is the key-note of the situation as it exists at present.
It is impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that the strength of the Community is due
mainly to the influence of the leader. The light in which he is regarded, as endowed with
spiritual and even Divine authority, renders his will all-powerful with those who still yield
him obedience; and as long as they retain this conception of his position and rights the
Community will hold together.
But influences are already at work which clearly indicate that the younger generation
will not yield the same loyalty to him as the older. His strength to-day rests first with elderly
men who have shared his privations, and who have been identified with the Community in
Russia, and beyond this, and above all, with the women.
The real strength of the organization lies in the loyalty of its women to Peter Verigin.
That loyalty is so profound and so marked that there have been instances where the women
still cling to the Community and remain in it even after their husbands and sons have left it.
This is not any more remarkable than the object-lesson that has been furnished in other
religious communities, showing the strength of the religious idea on the mind of woman. Surely
in this respect the position of the Doukhobors does not differ greatly from that of many of the
orthodox Christians.
This attitude is confirmed and, indeed, crystallized in a phrase that is commonly used
among the Doukhobors (of course, in their own tongue), when they speak of yielding obedience
to the " holy will " of their leader. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 39
It may at once be conceded that Peter Verigin is devoted to the interests of his people,
and, as will be seen in a subsequent chapter, he has never attempted to advance his own
personal interests, beyond consolidating his position as head of the Community. This naturally
leads to the consideration of his personal relations with the Doukhobors, especially as to business
transactions, the disposal of funds, and the general conduct of their financial affairs.
It was the necessity for getting a thorough understanding of this phase of the subject
that led the Commissioner to visit Saskatchewan.
The whole of the money that had been used for the acquisition of lands and the development of the Community in British Columbia had been furnished by the Central Fund of the
Saskatchewan Communities. In addition, there were individual contributions, if one may so
term any private belongings of a Doukhobor Community, such as horses, cattle, implements,
etc., which are recognized as the property of, or as at any rate vested in, the quasi-members of
the Community Villagers in Saskatchewan.
The village property, considered apart from the Central Fund, is recognized as the
property of the Doukhobors constituting the particular village affected.
As a rule, these villages consist of about 150 to 200 people. Their land boundaries are
defined by the Community, and within the limit of their village they cultivate the lands thus
defined, gather the crops, consume what is necessary, sell the rest, and the money thus earned
belongs to that particular village. It may be used to purchase stock, implements, or other
necessary requirements to develop the farming industry of the village.
Ownership in this property never passes from the village. To whichever of the forty
villages established in Saskatchewan a man may belong, he can always look to that particular
village to recognize his right and claim to a portion of this property.
The business accounts of all the villages are kept at the head office of the Doukhobor
Community at Verigin, Saskatchewan. Here an office is maintained, and all entries are made
in the most systematic manner. Indeed, the books afford a very excellent testimony to both
the competency and the intelligence of the local manager, Mr. Michael Cazakoff, under whose
immediate direction all the Communities work.
In passing, it may be said that Mr. Cazakoff is a man of very high personal character,
of most amiable disposition, and the most excellent mental endowments. He has a grasp of
all the principles of business that would do credit to a graduate of any of the large commercial
institutions, whereas he is a self-educated man, the son of a peasant, and himself a labouring
farmer until he was elected to his present position as business manager.
While he is subject to the control of Peter Verigin in all matters of policy, he has a
tolerably free hand in dealing with purely commercial affairs.
The books, which he has designed, show, first of all, a ledger account for each village as a
village. Then an individual account, where individual obligations have been incurred and
payments made or received by or from individuals, such as when a man works on the outside
and earns money. This department of the book-keeping shows the village accounts clear and
There is an annual balance-sheet for each village, which sets forth the value of stock,
stores, etc., and the contributions in earnings of each individual to his own village funds.
If a man leaves, he receives, on demand, his full share in the village funds, arrived at
from the valuation shown in the books ; and, as far as the Commissioner was able to ascertain,
there has been no difficulty on the part of the Doukhobors leaving the Community in Saskatchewan in obtaining these settlements, either in the form of cash or stock.
With reference to the Doukhobors who have left the Community in British Columbia, the
situation is a little different, and will require explanation. The number of these does not
exceed twenty-five or thirty. Some of them have received from the villages in Saskatchewan
the share to which they are entitled, others have not; but on investigation it appeared that
the fault lay not with the central management, but with the village representatives, who in
one or two instances had failed to reply to communications. The investigation of the books
in Saskatchewan left no doubt that it was perfectly easy to determine the sum due to each
individual under this head.
But there are a number of Doukhobors who have left since coming to British Columbia
who have not been able to obtain their shares, and the condition is aggravated to some extent
by the fact that in some cases horses and implements have been contributed by them to the
British Columbia Settlement. So that they stand in this position : that they have worked for
the Community for thirteen years since first coming to Canada, had received from it their T 40 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
living, but no cash; had earned while living in Saskatchewan villages considerable money on
the outside, which had been paid into the village funds, but, on leaving the Community in
British Columbia, for various reasons, had been unable to obtain a settlement.
This matter was thoroughly thrashed out at the hearing before the Commissioner at
Nelson. Each individual complaint was carefully investigated, and a reference to the evidence
will show that in no case did Peter Verigin, who was present and was examined in rebuttal
evidence of the evidence of the independent Doukhobors who complained, repudiate the
liability. But he went on record to the effect that the Community admitted that there was a
liability, even though the exact amount might not have been ascertained, and that when the
funds are available every man who had left the Community would be paid in full what was
due to him.
Most of the complaining Doukhobors expressed themselves satisfied with this undertaking,
and on hearing Peter Verigin's statement at once admitted that they believed his word to be
good, and that they had no doubt but that he would keep it.
This leads to the question as to whether there should be any difficulty in ascertaining the
exact amount due and in paying it promptly.    The answer to this is of a twofold nature :—
(1.) The difficulty of ascertaining the exact amount due is one which can be solved. It
arose through the removal of a portion of the Communities to British Columbia, whilst a
portion of some of the villages would remain behind, and those at this end would not be
sufficiently in touch with those left in Saskatchewan to have their claim adjudicated upon
(2.) But Peter Verigin took other grounds, and with some show of reason. He pointed
out that the Doukhobor Community was a trading company. That all the members of the
Community had gone into a business venture. That they had instructed him on their behalf
to purchase certain lands in British Columbia. He had purchased the lands, and entered into
heavy obligations to complete certain payments. Of these payments no less a sum than
$321,079 was still due. The British Columbia Settlements were still in their infancy, and
only a limited area was as yet productive. In consequence of this, the cost of financing, and
of even feeding, the Community was not an easy problem to grapple with, and until their
debts were paid it was not reasonable for those who had entered into a business venture, and
had brought about the imposition of certain financial burdens, to ask to have their money
Of course, this is only one side of the question, and such a line of argument was probably
dictated by the consideration that if any considerable number of Doukhobors found that they
could, at a moment's notice, demand and receive their full share in cash, there might, in certain
circumstances, be a movement that would imperil the Community and even reduce it to
It is a fair comment on the evidence adduced to say that, after hearing Mr. Verigin's
statement, the number of discontented Doukhobors was very few, and the majority of them
believed in his bona fides and expressed themselves ready to wait.
This does not do away with the fact that there were a few who are still dissatisfied, and
who are inclined to insist upon an immediate settlement.
And this opens up the whole question of the financial relations of the various members
of the Community to each other, to the Community, and to the leader, and the necessity for
placing these relations on a more businesslike foundation. This, however, will form the subject
of another chapter.
Meanwhile, to complete the story of their financial organization, it is necessary to refer
in greater detail to the Central Fund in Saskatchewan.
This fund was formed from the surplus earnings of the forty-odd villages, in order to give
greater elasticity to the operations of the whole Community, and to place the leaders in a
position where they would have money in hand for necessary purposes.
In the first instance, Mr. Verigin borrowed the sum of $100,000. Then the Doukhobors
developed their lands, and also earned considerable sums of money on the outside; the different
villages made contributions of cash to the Central Fund. This cash was raised in the form of
a levy which at one time stood at $100 per head, and was subsequently raised to $200, and
levied on all the working-men in each village.
In the year 1911 these assessments yielded about $214,000, in addition to which moneys
were paid into the Central Fund from Doukhobors working in Community places, such as
trading stores and offices; from persons entering the Community ; from persons who lived in •'3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 41
British Columbia leaving their capital in the villages; from people who removed to British
Columbia leaving part of their stock, grain, and implements in Saskatchewan; and from Saskatchewan lands and town lots belonging to Doukhobors who went to British Columbia and
which were sold at their request. These various items raised the Central Fund in the year 1911
to a total of $342,099. It may be asked : What became of this money 1 No less than $134,772
was used for payments on account of land purchased in British Columbia, and the bank overdraft of $17,939 brought forward from the previous year was paid off.
Over $112,000 was transmitted to British Columbia to cover overdrawn bank accounts
and expenses of living there.
The railway companies got $82,827 for freight charges, and there were other sundry
expenditures of smaller amounts, raising the total outlay for the year to $375,999.
As illustrated, the thoroughness with which the communal rights are recognized and lived
up to by the Doukhobors, it will not be out of the way to state that men in the position of
Michael Cazakoff, the manager, who could command a large salary in any similar position elsewhere, lives with the same simplicity as the humblest member of the Community, without any
luxuries, and pays the whole of his salary into the Community funds.
The same remark applies to the other business managers, Mr. Sherbinin and Mr. Zibiroff;
and as to the head of the Community, Mr. Peter Verigin, it will be necessary to deal with
his case in a separate chapter.
It may be asked, and, although it is a minor matter, it will not be without interest: What is
the system on which the books of the Community are distributed 1   The system is simplicity itself.
Taking the case of the Brilliant Settlement as an illustration, and it stands for all the
■others : Mr. Sherbinin orders everything that is necessary to feed and clothe the Community.
In placing these orders, he is advised by the representative of each assembly of the probable
requirements in the near future. He orders wherever possible by car-load. The goods are
stored in a large warehouse at Brilliant. A Doukhobor is placed in charge of this warehouse
or store, and members of the Community can come at will and ask for anything they like.
There is no limit placed on their demands so far as the stock covers them. No accounts are
kept of the consumption or of the quantity taken by any individual. It is a matter of honour
whether they take more than is necessary or not.
The only ground for complaint in connection with the supplies arises from the fact that,
so far as food is concerned, the range is somewhat limited, and some things which the
ordinary member regards necessaries are regarded by the manager as luxuries, and are not
therefore provided.
Reduced to its simplest elements, the system is that the people contribute their toil, and
in return receive from a common fund their food and clothing. The surplus passes into the
direct and, one might say, the sole control of Mr. Verigin, acting through his business managers.
The above gives a fairly complete idea of the organization of the Doukhobor Society,
showing how it has been modified by new conditions with which it has been confronted in
Canada, and when it has been weakened by the desertion of a considerable percentage of its
adherents. It also shows clearly the method of financing and of handling and accounting for
the funds placed under the control of the head and his business managers.
It remains to refer to the system on which the land-holdings of the Doukhobor Community
in British Columbia have been registered, in order to show in whom the title is legally vested.
When the Community in Saskatchewan instructed Peter Verigin and Nicholas Zibiroff
to investigate the question of British Columbia lands, it associated with them one Simeon
Reibin, who was then one of the most prominent and active members of the Community, and,
after the request of the members, these three names were associated in a number of the titles
originally acquired. Later, in one or two instances, the name of Simeon Reibin was dropped
and that of John Sherbinin used, also by request of the Community; and still later, by the
same authority, all names were dropped except that of Peter Verigin, and most of the titles
have been registered in his name alone.
It is quite clear that this has been done by the desire of the Doukhobors, and that they
regard him as their trustee. In confirmation of this, also, there is the evidence of Peter Verigin
given at Nelson to the effect that he regarded himself, Reibin, Zibiroff, and Sherbinin as
trustees. But he frankly admitted, when examined by the Commissioner, that in the absence
of a trustee there was a possibility of complications, and that it was desirable that the matter
should be dealt with in legal form, so as to place the question of ownership beyond doubt or
dispute. T 42 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
It is admitted that in the previous history of the Doukhobors in Russia the personal
cupidity of some members of the Community has overcome their religious scruples, and that
in one case at least—that of a brother of Loukerya Vazilyevna Kalmykova—a successful
attempt was made to obtain possession of the property of the Community. Peter Verigin
admitted that; however sincere his desire might be to hold the property intact for the Community, difficulties might arise in consequence of the present tenure, and that he was willing
to execute any trust deed or agreement which would make the title absolutely secure to the
In this he was corroborated by his counsel, Mr. A. M. Johnson, who said that for at least
two years he had been considering the best method of dealing with this subject, which bristled
with difficulties and presented a real problem. He was particularly apprehensive of difficulty
in case there should be a dispute between Mr. Verigin and any other of his co-trustees, with a
possibility of the latter proceeding to make a personal claim.
In order to establish his own position clearly and to disavow any intention of personal
aggrandizement, Mr. Johnson said that Mr. Verigin had made a will bequeathing the whole
of the property registered in his name to the Community, and appointing members of the
Community as trustees of the will. Mr. Verigin himself confirmed this statement, but the
document was not produced or put in evidence; nor can such a document be regarded as
satisfactory, however sincere the desire of the testator. In justice to the Community, who,
whilst having implicit faith in their leader, are insufficiently protected in the eyes of the law
under the existing arrangements, steps should be taken to establish the members' indefeasible
title to their lands.
Universal Testimony to Kindness, Courtesy, and Hospitality of Doukhobors—Quaint Custom of Bowing—
Singing and Chanting Psalms—Simplicity of Home Life—Individual Dwellings in Saskatchewan—Community Dwellings in British Columbia—Considerable Overcrowding on First Arrival—Remarkable
Cleanliness of Dwellings—Deficient Ventilation—General Health Good—Tendency to Tuberculosis—
General Disinclination to Employ Professional Medical Assistance—Verigin has no Confidence in
Doctors and Discourages their Employment—Doukhobors Establish Hospital and Later Abandon it—
As a Rule are Vegetarians and Abstain from Intoxicants—Refuse to Send Children to School—Condemn
Fanatical Customs—Remarkable Means Adopted by Verigin to Discipline Doukhobors in Saskatchewan—Although Agriculturists, have Established other Industries—Refuse to Register Births, Deaths,
and Marriages—Simplicity of their Marriage Ceremony, which they Consider Binding—Moral Standing
High—Divorce Rare—Some Instances of Remarriage where Desertion has taken Place—Interesting
Gathering at Brilliant^Settlement, when Commissioner met the Community.
When one comes to deal with the personal character, with the habits, the customs, and the
practices of the Doukhobors, one has nothing but a pleasant task. Whether in Russia, in
Saskatchewan, or in British Columbia, they have at all times impressed those who have come
into contact with them as being the very essence of kindliness, courtesy, and hospitality. They
cannot do too much for a traveller. They give him their best, both of food and accommodation,
and they refuse to accept payment. Not only so, but by every word and gesture they
endeavour to convey the idea that he is welcome in the fullest sense of the word.
There is an amount of deference which is due to their religious beliefs. Among no people
is there so much raising of the hat and bowing as among the Doukhobors. It strikes an
observer as a little out of the common to see men, whenever they meet, raising their hats to
each other as frequently as to their women-folk. And with the raising of the hat there is
invariably a word of greeting. It seems as if their personal relations are of the most cordial
character. During many days spent in their various Communities, the Commissioner did not
once hear an angry word or notice any sign of friction or ill-feeling.
They are very fond of singing and chanting, and at all hours of the day can be heard
indulging in what, to an outsider, is a monotonous chanting of their songs. When they gather
together in their homes, it is no longer monotonous, for they raise their voices and sing heartily,
as if they thoroughly enjoyed it. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 43
Peter Verigin is a great singer, and often leads them in these exercises. One morning
the Commissioner drove rather early to his home in Grand Forks, and, when almost a quarter
of a mile away, heard singing. At the comparatively early hour of 8 o'clock he was leading a
large choir in his own house. After the first public sitting in the Court-room at Nelson, Peter
Verigin, accompanied by some thirty or forty men and women of the Community, who had
been with him in Court, assembled at the nearest street corner and commenced singing songs.
The townsfolk of Nelson gathered round until there was a large crowd. They were deeply
interested and did nothing to molest the singers, appearing to recognize their devoutness. It
is natural that the children should be influenced by this example, for they are taught to sing
in the home, and they join in chanting the psalms at a very early age.
The home life of the Doukhobors is at once delightful and forbidding. Delightful in its
simplicity, for everything is simple. The houses lack ornamentation or decoration. They are
scrupulously clean and sanitary, but in the British Columbia Settlements, at any rate, there are
no pictures on the walls and not a single superfluous article of furniture.
In Saskatchewan the village life developed individual dwellings, in which one family
would reside; in British Columbia they have started out by building Community houses.
These houses are built in pairs. The idea of this seems to be to get as near to the Village
Community principle as is possible under different conditions. Since the area of land available
is limited and is to be used for intensive culture only, the management has designed a pair of
these houses for an average of, say, 100 acres. Each house will accommodate variously from
thirty-five to fifty persons. There are eight bedrooms, approximately 9 or 10 feet square; each
room has a window and a doorway, but few of the rooms have doors ; curtains are used instead.
The furnishing of the bedrooms is exceedingly simple. It consists, generally speaking, of
one or two beds, with an abundant supply of bed-linen, blankets, and coverlets, a small table,
a lamp, and a chair. According to the evidence given by a number of witnesses, the rule is
for the parents to occupy one bed and the young children another. As soon as any of the
children reach the age of eight or ten, they are provided with a bed in another room. It is
true that these conditions were not observed on the first arrival of the Doukhobors in British
Columbia. At that time they were badly crowded together, and bitter complaints were made
by some of them. The conditions might not have been sanitary, but there is no evidence that
they led to other abuses, and, as explained by Mr. Verigin and his managers, they were
terminated as soon as it was possible to increase the house accommodation.
All the bedrooms are upstairs. The downstairs of the house consists of a large sitting or
living room, which contains one table and benches all around the room. Behind this there
may be a couple of bedrooms, used generally by the head man of the house and his family;
farther back, a large dining-room and kitchen. In the latter is the inevitable Russian oven,
in which all the cooking is done and the bread baked. At the back of the house, a distance
of some 30 or 40 feet, is a smaller building which contains a guest-chamber, and which is also
used in case of sickness to isolate the invalid, a bath-house, a storehouse or pantry, and a kind
of soup-kitchen, in which some of the cooking is done.
The premises were all clean and well kept. There was a notable absence of an accumulation of filth, and only in one respect was anything witnessed in any of the Settlements which
laid them open to criticism from a hygienic standpoint, and that was the inadequate
arrangement made for ventilation.
The Doukhobors made every effort to secure a good water-supply, as they use large
quantities for cooking and domestic purposes and bathing, and at all their British Columbia
Settlements they are assured of this.
Speaking of health naturally raises the question of sickness, and this has led to considerable
discussion; indeed, several of the discontented Doukhobors who left the Community at
Brilliant and Grand Forks did so on the alleged ground that they were unable to obtain
medical attendance when required. The answer of Mr. Verigin and his managers to this is
that in no case has medical attendance been refused any Doukhobor asking for it, but that
the Community does not encourage the calling-in of doctors, because it does not believe in
them. Mr. Verigin spoke very strongly, not to say contemptuously, on this subject, and
there was considerable conflict of testimony. The evidence justifies the conclusion that, while
there is no law of the Community against employing medical men, there is little faith in them,
and their employment is discouraged. Latterly it has been discouraged on the definite
instructions of Mr. Verigin, who found that doctors' fees were high, and apparently ordered
that they were not to be incurred except in very extreme cases.    There were cases where T 44 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
medical attendance was not sought, because the attitude of the Community was well understood
to be adverse; and one man, at any rate, left without asking for medical assistance, in order
that he might place his wife in the hands of a medical man. This was done, an operation was
performed, and her life was saved.
Yielding to outside pressure, Peter Verigin at one time agreed to establish a hospital and
dispensary on the Settlement at Brilliant. The hospital, a well-constructed building, costing-
several thousand dollars, was erected, and the dispensary was equipped. But the mistake was
made calling in a Russian " quack" instead of a properly qualified medical man. His
vagaries were so obvious and displeasing to the Community that he was discharged in a short
time, and they then became so disgusted with the whole proposition that they abandoned the
project, and the hospital has never since been used.
In the earlier days of the Settlement, medical men in Grand Forks and Nelson were
frequently called in, according to the evidence of Doctors Rose, Hartin, and Kingston, as
often as once or twice a month, but about a year ago this stopped abruptly, and they have not
since been called in at all.
The evidence points to the correctness of the statement that Mr. Verigin had given some
instructions on this matter which led to an abandonment of the earlier policy, and his own
evidence is a practical admission that the question of fees had a great deal to do with his
altered attitude. There can be no doubt that the Doukhobors should receive the benefit of
such medical attention as they may desire, and now that there are so many of them in the
Province, it is clear that the problem will have to be solved by the employment of resident
medical officers.
In this connection it is only fair to say that they are, on the whole, a healthy people.
They are practically free from trachoma, which is one of the commonest complaints of European
immigrants. Their general health is good, and the only disease which seems to trouble them
is the dread disease of tuberculosis. According to the evidence of Dr. Rose and Dr. Hartin,
both of whom have had special opportunities of studying the Doukhobors, this disease is rather
more prevalent among them than among the average settlers of the Province, and has possibly
been increased by overcrowding and lack of ventilation.
Speaking generally of the Doukhobors, it is fair to say that their habits are good. They
do not indulge in violence of any kind; they are, in Community, strict vegetarians, and as a
rule abstain from intoxicants. They are entirely free from crime. They dress simply and
inexpensively, being strongly opposed to finery, and on this point it may be permissible to
relate an amusing incident which occurred during the visit of the Commissioner to Brilliant.
While discussing the school question and the refusal of the parents to continue sending
their children to school, after a number of speakers had addressed the Commissioner through
an interpreter, an elderly woman stepped forward and requested permission to speak. She said
that one of the reasons why the parents objected to send their children to school was that the
teacher, a lady, " curled her hair and wore ribbons," and they noticed that after the girls had
been attending school a few weeks they began to curl their hair, and she thought this was such
a terrible thing, as an evidence of vanity, that on no account would she be willing to subject
her children to such a degrading influence.
The Doukhobors are admittedly a moral, industrious, truthful, and honest people. They
are human; there are a few. black sheep in the flock, as in every flock, and a few men who
bring discredit on the high moral standards which generally prevail among these people. There
are men who will hold back a part of their earnings when working on the outside. There have
been instances of Doukhobors abandoning the vegetarian diet and even breaking the rule as to
the use of alcohol, but this is done with a shamefacedness which is a practical admission that
it is a breach of regulations, although there is reason to fear that the practice is growing.
The Doukhobors have no eccentric or fanatical customs that are recognized by the Community. Nothing can be more emphatic than the manner in which the sensational prilgrimage
in Saskatchewan was denounced by nine-tenths of the Community. At the same-time, there
is a streak of fanaticism among them, which will be more fully explained when we come to deal
with their religious views. This is evidenced by the fact that, in response to the " holy will"
of their leader, they will do things which cannot be accounted for on any other ground than
that of fanaticism.
For instance, during the holding of this Commission, while Peter Verigin was in residence
at Verigin, Saskatchewan, he appears to have conceived the idea that there was a growing
laxity among some of the people, and in order to discipline them and impress them with the 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 45
importance of a more rigid adherence to their laws, he ordered, and led the way in, an eight-
mile march to a river. Here, men and women, at his bidding, followed him through the stream.
They waded up to their necks, and narrowly escaped drowning. They walked back barefooted
to the Town of Verigin, many of them not merely footsore, but bleeding, and the women were
bidden to cut off their hair, which they did.
It may not be easy for one who is not a Doukhobor to say where the line may be drawn
by the head of a Community in disciplining his followers, and as they submitted to his will
without demur, as they always do, it may be taken for granted that they conceded his right to
give such orders. But, even so, it is hard to disassociate contemplation of this from the idea of
fanaticism ; and that leads to many speculations as to the means by which leaders of religious
communities retain their hold on their people. It also leads to much speculation as to how far
and for how long it is possible to retain one's hold by such means in a country where the
Community is surrounded by men who are educated and enlightened, and do not consider
themselves bound by any supernatural obligations.
The Doukhobors, although they graft a few simple industries on to their main occupation,
are practically an agricultural people, and their work on the land is of a very high order. They
call themselves " Children of the Soil." They object to educate their children, because they
claim that it would lead them to leave the soil and engage in commercial pursuits, a conclusion
which it is impossible to combat, whatever one may think of its wisdom. They work long-
hours, but not strenuously, because they take intervals of rest at irregular periods, when they
feel the need of it. They train their women to be nurses, and claim that they are the best
nurses in the world. So far as gentleness, sympathy, and devotion are concerned, the claim
may be a just one, but their knowledge is extremely limited, and they are not acquainted with
any of the modern discoveries which are known to every trained nurse, and which do so much
to alleviate human suffering.
A great deal of curiosity has been aroused in connection with the refusal of the Doukhobors
to register births, deaths, and marriages, and the various arguments put forward in an attempt
to justify their course will be dealt with later. It may, however, be interesting under this
heading to draw attention to their custom with respect to the marriage ceremony. The form
of solemnization is of the most primitive kind. It simply requires the consent of the contracting
parties and their parents, and the endorsation of a Community meeting. When two young
people have made up their minds to marry, and as a rule they do this at a very early age, they
first obtain the parents' consent; they then appear at the next meeting of the assembly, which
means the assembly to which their particular residence belongs. They announce their engagement and their wish to be married. If there is no obstacle—and there rarely is—the assemblage
endorses the marriage, and that practically constitutes the ceremony.
It might be imagined that a ceremony so informal and devoid of any religious features
might be regarded lightly by the contracting parties, and it has been freely stated that this is
the case, and that Doukhobor marriages are unmade as readily as they are made. No evidence
has been obtained to justify this conclusion, and even in Saskatchewan, where some of the
Doukhobor customs have lost much of their force, there is not sufficient ground to warrant so
drastic a statement.
But there is some ground for believing that, for communal reasons, the objection to the
registration of marriages may, at any rate to a certain extent, be based upon the unwillingness
to bring those marriages under review for the purpose of preventing divorce. The teaching of
the Doukhobor is that the people should marry and should live together. There is no reason
whatever to doubt that the ceremony, such as it is, is regarded by them as being as valid and
binding as the ordinary marriage ceremony is to the ordinary citizen. But conditions arise
under which it is more easily dissolved, although divorce is not resorted to to any considerable,
extent. There have been a number of cases where men have left the Community, and then-
wives have refused to follow them. After the lapse of some time, the man, who had now
become an independent Doukhobor, would marry again on the outside, and later on his wife
would be permitted by the Community to take a husband on the inside.
There have been many cases, however, highly creditable to the Doukhobors, as illustrating
their fidelity to their marriage obligations—cases where, although deserted, Doukhobors would
not marry again during the lifetime of the wives who had deserted them, and one case at least
where a Community Doukhobor, who was deserted by his wife, she going to live with another
man, refused to remarry until he had obtained a legal divorce through the Canadian Courts. T 46 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
In confirmation of the view that divorces are permitted in the Doukhobor Community
possibly in special cases, but still without the formality of any appeal to the Canadian Courts,
attention may be directed to the evidence of Peter Verigin. When under examination at
Nelson, he refused to admit that there were divorces, and stated that he could not recall one
instance. On reconsidering the matter, however, he wrote a letter to the Commissioner the
following day, September 4th, 1912. This letter is written in Russian and signed "Peter
Verigin," and was translated by the Official Interpreter as follows :—
Sir,—Additional to the evidence I submitted to you relative to the Doukhobor Society married life, I
would say that at the present time we have several cases of divorce, the reason being that the husband
leaves the Society, and on his becoming naturalized the wife, having children, does not like to follow the
husband, but remains with the Society.
Please add this to my former statement regarding the married life of our Society.
(Signed.)       Peter Verigin.   •
On the last occasion on which Mr. Verigin was examined, this subject of registration of
marriages was again touched upon, and he asked whether, if the Doukhobors consented to
registration, it would make any difference to the subject of divorce. The matter was not
pursued, however, beyond informing him that British Columbia had control of its own divorce
laws, but the question would appear to suggest that the possibility of registration of marriage
rendering it either more difficult or impossible for the Community to deal with the subject of
divorce was present in the mind of their leader.
A fair conclusion on this subject of marriage and divorce is that the simplicity of the
ceremony does not weaken its moral force in the minds of the Doukhobors. When they
marry, they intend to, and in the vast majority of cases do, remain faithful to each other, but
the policy of the leaders is to keep the Community intact and practically to retain the authority
of pronouncing or permitting divorce in their own hands, for this is what it amounts to when
sanction is given for remarriage within the Community during the lifetime of both parties.
It is, however, fair to say that no evidence can be obtained showing that there was any
general laxity in observing the marriage vows, or any lowering of the standard of morality,
nor, indeed, any variation from what can be desired in this respect, other than the means by
which divorce was brought about in certain cases, and permitted in nearly every case for the
purpose of strengthening the Community principle.
In closing this chapter, it may be fitting to append an account of the very interesting
meeting which the Commissioner held at Brilliant on September 5th, 1912, when, at the request
of the leaders, he met upwards of a thousand members of the Community, and, through an
interpreter, addressed them upon the subject of observance of the registration laws and the
" Schools Act." This account was written at the time, and gives a vivid reflex of their quaintest
customs, as well as giving at first hand the impression created by the discussion of these
important matters. Feeling that possibly the imperfect representation of their views made
through an interpreter failed to do justice to their case, they handed to the Commissioner at
the close of the interview a written statement, summarizing their views on the subject.
The Doukhobor Inquiry Commissioner, with his secretary and photographer and others who accompanied
him yesterday on a visit to the Doukhobor Settlements on the banks of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers
between Kinnaird and Brilliant, spent a day of unique and varied interest.
Crossing the Columbia River from Kinnaird on the cable-ferry installed by the Society, they came to
what was in the early days of the mining development of this locality called Waterloo, then a local centre
for gold-mining and timber operations near by. Here, with the original log buildings of the old town as a
basis, though now greatly improved and beautified, the Society established the headquarters of their
business administration, post-office, stores, etc. A well-appointed eight-room hospital is also maintained
here, with dispensary and all required equipment, but owing to the general good health that prevails in the
Community it is seldom occupied. The visitors were impressed from the first view of the Settlement
throughout their trip with the neatness and beauty of the buildings, about all of which are gardens of flowers,
and the general aspect of perfect cleanliness, both indoors and out. Here they saw the large Russian ovens
in which large batches of bread are baked, each loaf about 14 inches in diameter, and of a quality that would
make the reputation of any baker who would supply such bread to the people of Nelson. The party looked
through the stock of the local store, and were told that the practice in the Community was for every member
to come and ask for such goods as he desired, which were given out to all who asked, without restriction, without money, and without price.
Then lunch was served to the visitors, comprising many choice local products, including watermelons
grown on the spot. Outside the visitors saw other notable examples of the skill of the people as producers
of fine vegetables.
They were then taken by Mr. Sherbinin and driven in rigs drawn by teams which any admirer of fine
horses would feel gratified to own, through what seemed innumerable acres of growing orchards, the extent
and state of advancement and perfect state of cultivation of which seemed marvellous in view of the short 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 47
time in which it had been brought about, for it is only just over four years ago that the first detachment of
Doukhobors came to British Columbia and began the clearing of this land, which was then in a state of
nature and largely covered with heavy forests. Three well-equipped sawmills were seen, in which the timber
cut off the land had been converted into material for the numerous houses with which the Community is now
accommodated. Large numbers of valuable horses were seen, whose fine condition was commented upon
by all, and they were informed that in all the time the Community had been there they had lost only one
horse, owing to the careful attention they received. An extensive irrigation system is being installed for
use in dry seasons, fed by two reservoirs, one of which has a capacity of 1,000,000 gallons, fed from the
Kootenay River by means of a pump said to be the largest in British Columbia, the capacity being 1,500
gallons per minute. The Society is also installing an electric plant to operate the pumps, and an elevator
and grist-mill which they propose to build to manufacture flour and meal from grain which they will ship
in from the Prairies ; also to supply power for sawmills and other uses.
Alter some hours spent in driving through and viewing the orchards, which in length cover many miles
along the banks of both rivers, the party arrived at the meeting-house of the Community, where representatives of the different Doukhobor Settlements throughout the locality were assembled to a number which
can have been little short of 1,000 people, men, women, and children. The men and boys were ranged on
one side and the women and girls on the other side in front of the building, leaving a passage between to
the steps of a large porch. In the centre of this passage, as also the centre of the auditorium inside, was
placed a table, covered with a linen cloth, on which were placed bread, water, salt, and a pitcher holding
flowers. Certain of the older men then stepped forward to receive and welcome the Commissioner, and they
explained through George Verigin, who acted as spokesman, that this table was always thus placed in their
Community gatherings, and that the bread and water had in their religion a sacramental significance, and
in this ease were also intended to stand as a token of the friendliness with which they received this visit,
which they believed would produce good results and lead to a better knowledge of one another.
This speech of welcome being interpreted by John Sherbinin, the Commissioner replied, expressing
his appreciation of their friendly reception. He said it was the purpose of his visit to promote friendly and
sympathetic relations and a better mutual understanding and appreciation of each other between the
Doukhobor people and the other inhabitants of this Province.
After this the children dispersed, having first been gathered by themselves in a group and photographed.
To a lover of children, the healthy and well-cared-for appearance of the children, as well as their numbers,
was a charming sight, and not the least notable feature of the day's events was the singing by the children
of some of their national hymns, in which the clear childish voice of one of the boys who acted as leader
was conspicuous. As they were about to leave, one little boy, named John Maslaff, asked permission to say
a few words for himself and his fellow-scholars. He stated that they had been attending public school
during the two months it had been in session there, but they did not wish to go to school again, because the
teacher who had taught them, although she had been very kind to them and they loved her, belonged to
the people who had put their friends in prison.
The Commissioner then spoke to the men and women regarding the views of English-speaking people
as to the necessity and benefit of public schools, the desire of the Government and all those concerned to
meet in every way possible the wishes of the Community, of which evidence had been given by the permission granted to teach Russian for a part of each day.
The proceedings, which were most harmonious throughout, terminated with a further exchange of
courtesies, and the Commissioner and the members of the Community parted on the most friendly terms.
The Commissioner's address was interpreted throughout by John Sherbinin, and several men and women
asked questions and subsequently addressed the gathering. Many of these had suffered banishment in
Siberia for refusal to comply with the registration laws of Russia on conscientious grounds, but none had
committed political offences or been involved in any of the anarchistic movements in that country. Among
the most notable were John Konkon and Timothy fiamaroden.
Every one of those who enjoyed this opportunity to see at close range the domestic life and manners of
this Society were deeply impressed with the high degree of cleanliness and the simplicity of their dwellings
and surroundings, and with the courteous and cordial manner in which they treated their visitors.
Religious Views— "Spirit-wrestlers" and followers of Christ—Sing Hymno Derived from Greek Church-
Specimen Hymn—Psychology of the Doukhobor Temperament—Children of the Soil—Objections to
Edncation—High Morality—No Evidences of Improper Practices in Community—Illiteracy General—
Rising Generation Influenced by Environment—Opinion of Mr. Joseph Elkinton—Intellectual and
Reasoning Powers of High Order—Doukhobors Well Posted on World Affairs—Verigin's Outline of
Doukhobor Religion—Discussion at Brilliant Between Commissioner and Community—Remarkable
Mauifesto handed to Commissioner by Delegation—Visit of Deputation to Victoria to Discuss Matters
in Dispute with Commissioner—Letter from Community Refusing to Comply with Suggestions—
Stubborn Attitude Maintained—Outline of Doukhobor Position by Mr. Simeon Veraschagan, one of
Oldest Members of Community—Summary of Objection to Registration and Education—Letter from
Miss B. Clarke, Ex-School Teacher at Brilliant, Relating her Experience there. T 48 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobobs. 1913
It is almost impossible to consider the attitude of the Doukhobor Community towards the
observance of law, apart from a study of their religious life. Indeed, this seems to be the
logical basis for discussion, because they claim that their hostility to certain laws is based
entirely upon religious conviction and conscientious scruples.
The Doukhobors call themselves, or at any rate were designated by their leaders in Russia
as, " Spirit-wrestlers," which is intended to indicate their profound belief in the abiding
presence of the Holy Spirit, for whose help they constantly appeal to enable them to overcome the weaknesses of the flesh and to live the " life of Christ." This " life of Christ " is their
ideal, and, as will be seen from some documents quoted later, they claim that it is the guiding
principle of their life.
They yield implicit obedience to what they believe to be the teachings of Christ. They
practise the simplicity of life which He exemplified. They "eschew the pomps and vanities
of this wicked world." They affect extreme simplicity in dress, furniture, and everything
connected with their home life. They believe in and practise the Golden Rule; and in spite
of a small minority who may not live up to it, it is doubtful if any community of like numbers
can point to a finer record of the simple, religious, Christ-like life.
The purity of their teaching is remarkable, because they do not study religious books, not
even the Bible, but the sayings of Christ, and the teachings based upon them, are passed down
from one generation to another by word of mouth. It is astonishing that in such a manner
they should have acquired a perfect knowledge of the Scriptures, especially of the New
Testament, although they are by no means superficially versed in the Old Testament. In the
course of discussion on religious matters, they would frequently give Old Testament references,
and always with accuracy.
They claim to be descended from the Three Hebrew Children, and maintain that their
practice of abstaining from animal food is based upon this fact. They have a singularly vivid
consciousness of the Divine presence and protection, and, however severe the persecution to
which they may be subjected, they console themselves with the reflection that, since God can
see all things, and knows all things, their cause is in His hands, and that whatever He does
will be right.
They do not believe in preaching, nor much in teaching, although they are fond of
religious services. At these services there is no exhortation; they are confined to prayers,
Scripture recitals, and singing. Some of their hymns date back to a.d. 400, and are selected
from the Greek Church hymns; and in these the Virgin Mary is frequently mentioned.
It may be interesting if one of their hymns is quoted, with their own crude translation
into English, in order to illustrate, as nearly as possible, their attitude towards some of the
Christian doctrines.
Light or Life.
Lord, You are light in my life,
Of my death You are resurrection ;
For my sin You came to suffer,
On the cross of blood have torment.
For my debt Jesus stands my guarantee,
And His blood gave it for payment.
Let follow you on to Golgotha,
Go up with hearty emotions
And with contrite soul,
To see through all Your torments.
At my mind about Your love
Poured the tears from eyes.
In Gethsemane and in prayer,
In tears, in sweat, and in wrestling,
There till death Christ pray all night,
For my fault and sin.
For people's sin, bloody sweat,
Christ poured His love on to the ground.
The Glory to our God.
Together with this profound religious conviction, which amounts almost to fatalism, the
Doukhobors have a remarkably supersensitive consciousness. This is well illustrated in their
treatment of their animals, with respect to which they hold very strong and peculiar views. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 49
One well-known Doukhobor in Saskatchewan is quoted as stating that when St. Paul wrote in
Romans VIIL, 19-22: "The whole creation waiteth and groaneth even until now for the
manifestation of (mercy on the part of) the sons of God," he meant to include the animal
creation as well as man in the term "sons of God"; and he made this the basis for treating
his horses with even greater consideration than he would have treated his fellow-man.
Time and again, this man and his companions, in crossing the prairie, when coming to a
dangerous spot—a slough or a creek—would unharness their horses and drag the wagon
through, then reharness them on the other side. This one incident is representative of many
others, and it may be said generally that they treat their animals with the same kindness as
they treat their children.
It has been well said that it is a psychological problem to eliminate this overconscious
mental attitude from such a kind and true spirit. So it is with all the fanaticism that has
appeared among these people. A people who, in the main, will not fight, or steal, or drink
anything intoxicating, or smoke, or use profane language, or lie, have a character which should
bring forth the best qualities of Christian citizenship. And this is the teaching they impart
to their children, and in which the children are growing up. But, as has been seen in
Saskatchewan, it has been greatly discounted by the effect of external influences.
This circumstance, no doubt, adds weight to the contention of the Doukhobors that they
should be allowed to retain their communal practices, and continue to rear their families in
the faith of their fathers. They are "Children of the Soil"—that is their favourite designation—and, as will be seen from a statement shortly to follow, it is their great dread of seeing
their children divorced from the soil that makes them so insistent in their refusal to educate
them, or to come in contact with civilization more than they can help.
This subject of education follows hard on the heels of religious belief, and determines
their intellectual studies. Perhaps, however, before dealing with it, it may be well to
recapitulate the effect of their religious views upon their moral life.
When discussing the question of marriage and divorce, it was pointed out that, except
for a variation from our recognized divorce laws, which probably has not been resorted to in
many cases, the moral standpoint of the Doukhobors is higher than that of the average
community—the term " community " not being used in any special sense. Rumours have been
circulated which, if verified, might constitute a serious charge against the morality of the
Doukhobors, but the closest investigation has failed to show any justification for these rumours,
and no person who has started them has been willing to follow the matter to a conclusion, or
been able to produce any evidence worthy of consideration.
Study of the people, of their habits of life, of their demeanour, of their temperament, and
of all evidence available affecting their conduct would veto the suggestion that they are an
immoral people, or that, under cover of Community regulations, they lower the moral standard.
Indeed, everything points in the opposite direction. They encourage early marriage, which
by all authorities is admitted as a bulwark against immorality; they inculcate the finest
principles in their home life; and, while the Community may exercise powers through its
leaders which are exceptional and peculiar, there is no ground for supposing that it is not
strict as to all moral observances, and insistent upon maintaining its standards.
As to the intellectual life and the subject of education, it needs no amplification to show
that these people are, in a sense, ignorant. A very small percentage can either read or write
Russian, and a negligible number understand English. It is doubtful if, in the whole
Community of 7,700 now resident in British Columbia, there are twenty who can converse in
the simplest and most broken English, or who can understand a paragraph in a newspaper or
a letter. The few among them who have begun to acquire our language, with perhaps half a
dozen exceptions, have not persevered beyond the most elementary stage, and this is reflected
in some of their attempts to address the Commissioner in the English language.
As they read no books, and practically acknowledge none, except the Bible, it is not
surprising that intellectual progress has been stunted, nor that their view should be narrow
and bigoted. They possess the obstinacy and suspicion characteristic of most uneducated
people, and, although it may be true, as a writer on this subject has said, that the truth has
always been entrusted largely to poor, ignorant men—that it was so in the first and in every
subsequent century of our era—yet ignorance does not make any people easier to deal with,
and is apt to confirm them not merely in their prejudices, but in what they believe to be their
legitimate opposition to organized law and order. T 50 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Still, this intellectual dormancy is no longer characteristic of the rising generation. They
have sensed a broader life and a greater freedom of thought, and are keen to know more about
it. The children who attended school in Grand Forks were described by the teacher as being
particularly intelligent, and on the whole quicker to learn than the average Canadian child.
The same testimony was borne by the lady teacher who had charge of the Brilliant School for
several months.
Perhaps no more competent opinion can be quoted than that of Mr. Joseph Elkinton,
who says :—
The more I talked with these honest-hearted men and women, the more fully and deeply impressed
became the conviction that they possessed the very germ of moral, civil, and spiritual reform, and that
within a few years their children will acquire such knowledge of Canadian life and customs as to correct
the misunderstandings of their parents.
It must not for a moment be supposed that, because the Doukhobor is uneducated, he
does not possess intellectual and reasoning powers of at least an average order It is
remarkable how, in common with many other uneducated people, they amass information. It
must be through their leaders, who are in touch with everything, and seem to know all that is
transpiring in the world, and who undoubtedly convey it orally to the members of the
Community in the various meetings of the assemblies.
At any time when the Commissioner was discussing important matters with the
Community, their spokesmen were able to quote reference after reference bearing upon the
subject, knew what had taken place, not only in Canada, but in Europe and the United States,
affecting the question at issue.
For instance, when the question of military service was under discussion, they not only
referred to their Russian experience, but to the great military prowess of England, the
enormous increase in naval and military expenditure, and a similar increase in the German
expenditures; and they put to the Commissioner this point: that if Britain and Germany went
to war, as leading statesmen seemed to think was inevitable, would Canada be able to keep
out of it ? And, if Canada had to fight, what would happen to the Doukhobors 1 Might not
they be called upon?
They were well posted on all matters affecting their interests. For instance, when the
schools question was under discussion, they asked if it were not a fact that there was a universal
cry of " back to the land " ? And was not the problem of the day among educationists how
to keep the people on the soil? They asked if it was not a fact that Canadian and English
boys and girls, when educated, would not work on the land, but sought positions in the cities ?
And if this was a matter of concern and anxiety to their respective Governments, how could
fault be found with the Doukhobors for trying to avert a similar calamity among their children 1
How could such questions be answered ?
Perhaps it would be well, before leaving the subject of religion and the attitude of the
Doukhobors, to allow their leader, Peter Verigin, to speak for himself. In his evidence at
Nelson, he said, in part:—
I will begin with the history of the Doukhobor religion. We take our religion from Jesus Christ. We
think Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth. He was here, and explained the equality of men on earth.
We accepted His teaching. For their propaganda of equality among men the Doukhobors were punished
and sent to prison ; and because they heard that this was a very free country, they emigrated to Canada.
The Doukhobors were established as a separate sect in Russia for three hundred years. They have always
held the same religious beliefs as they hold to-day. They do not call their sect a church. They believe that
the Church is composed of living people. They have no books of worship ; they believe in oral testimony.
They are trying now to follow Jesus Christ. He said : " I give the law to your hearts and to your senses,
and you will transmit it to your children."
The purpose of the visit of the Commissioner to Brilliant was to discuss with the people,
face to face, the subject of their non-compliance with the registration laws and their refusal to
send their children to school. Not that it was expected that the discussion would have any
very definite result, but, in the course of the hearing at Nelson, it was stated specifically by
one of their leaders that the exact reason for the registration laws had never been fully
explained to the people, and that they would at least appreciate a full statement of the views
of the Government on the subject.
As detailed in a previous chapter, the visit took place, and a very full discussion ensued.
It is not necessary to go at length into the arguments used by the Commissioner. A brief
summary of these appeared at the time in the Nelson Daily News, and is quoted here:—
The Commissioner then spoke to the men and women regarding the views of the English-speaking
people as to the necessity and benefits of public schools ; the desire of the Government and all those con- 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 51
cerned to meet in every way possible the wishes of the Community, of which evidence had been given by
the permission granted to teach Russian for a part of the day.
The spokesman of the Community then replied that, as in Russia their objections to war and militarism
had caused difficulties between them and the Government, so in Canada they believed they saw reason to
fear the same thing. The Governments of all civilized countries were engaged in making preparations for
war, and the British Government, they saw, was taking a leading part in the same struggle. The first and
chief purpose of the Doukhobor Society was to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as they understood them ;
therefore they wished to have nothing to do with anything which seemed to them to have any connection
with military preparations.
The Commissioner explained that there was no such connection between the registration laws of British
Columbia and the military system of Great Britain or Canada; also that the purpose of Great Britain's
military equipment and preparations was not to make war, but to maintain peace, and that it was admitted
by all who understood the times that under present conditions in the world this state of preparedness was
essential to the maintenance of the nation's peace.
With reference to the schools, several Doukhobor speakers urged that the reasons which led to their
decision to discontinue sending their children to school were that education was likely to make the children
discontented with their life of cultivation of the soil followed by their parents, and make them wish to get
their living in easier ways, and would tend to separate the children from their parents and from the customs
and habits of the Community.
These were the reasons which caused the Community to feel that their conscience would not permit
them to comply with these laws.
One of the women told the Commissioner that among them crime was unknown, and that, whereas
among educated people poverty existed, no Doukhobor ever suffered for want of food or clothing ; so they
thought that, while the laws spoken of were needed for other people, they did not think they were required
;among the Doukhobors.
The Commissioner pointed out that in no other country in the world was there the same amount of
religious freedom and the same tolerance of other people's religious views as in the various countries of the
British Empire, and that there was not the slighcest desire on the part of the Government to interfere with
the religious observances and conscientious views of the Doukhobor Community. The only desire was to
see them line up with the other inhabitants of the country in obeying the laws, which were made for the
good of all, and which might at any moment become as essential to the protection of the Doukhobors as any
other class of the people. He added that, while it was is duty to reconcile any differences that had arisen
between the Government and the Doukhobors, at the same time his last word to them was that some way
must be found by which they could be induced to recognize their responsibilities to obey the laws of the
Province. He pointed out that the people of British Columbia and the Doukhobors believed in the same
Jesus Christ, and that none of the laws of this Province were contrary to His teachings.
Following this, the Community handed to the Commissioner a statement which they had
carefully prepared. The translation is crude in the extreme, which is accounted for by the fact
that they did not call in their manager as interpreter; but perhaps it is just as well to give it
in the way in which they thought it out, as it is possible to gather their full meaning- and to
understand the grounds of their objection to both the registration laws and to education.
This understanding is necessary if one is to consider how they should be dealt with, for, whatever else may be said, there can be no doubt as to their sincerity.
Three hundred years ago we carry name Doukhobors. For all this time at Russia russian spiritual-
priests and the government authority command not once had aroused question about our Doukhobor religious
doctrine, which our generations had we accepted from Christ, and we try to lead this teaching for all our
life at excess power by deeds.
Our generations refused to worship the things made with hands all the substantial churches divine
service, for what they suffered very much in imprisonment in monasterials torture-chambers.... were
banished to the galleys and the children were taken away and trained them by theirs own way. But after
all this did not help the russian government and the clergy. The God is powerful in His righteousness.
And the Doukhobors at Russia had been excluded from all the churches ceremony, and never had been entered
in register books. This question the registration intimately had tied the Doukhobors with religious faith.
And now just the same at the present time we wish to be citizens of all the world, and do not wish to
register our children in the Royal Crown Government books, and to register dead-body it is insipidity.
Because our religion confines on us to believe into divine power from the self Governing-Spirit, and we
consider that the adorable Divine Power is ruling and governing all the world. Jesus Christ brought light
and intellect to the earth from the Father of self Governing Spirit from the Heaven, that is a man generates
to earth can by creed into Divine Power step over this immortality spirit after the dead body.
We are not refusing to give knowledge of increase or decrease of our Doukhobor Community people in
ten or five years once. But to enter in your register books we will never do it. Because we calculate we
are already registered in the Book of Life before Him the Founder, which is called Eternity. At will of
Lord the Founder of the earth, a man bornes and leaves in this world, by His holy will, a man is dying in
body the heart returns to Father of self governor, so as to join with it's beginning. Our Father-God is that
Power of self governor Spirit-Power of love, Power of Life, which had given beginning to whole essentiality.
The Christ in his intellection opened to us in this power His Father's Anarchical Spirit. " Father and I is
The School teaching Doukhobors same did not accepted while being in Russia, and very seldom the
children were thought to read and write, and if it had happened it was at home-school. We educate our
children by means orally, so as not to have expense for the paper and the printing matter. The School
.education we turned aside by many reasons and the most important of them are : Three. T 52 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
1. The school education teaches and prepares the people, that is children, to military service, where,
shed harmless blood of the people altogether uselessly. The most well educated people consider this dreadfully sinful such business as war, lawful.    We consider this is great sin.
2. The school teaching at the present time had reached only to expedience for easy profit, thieves,,
cheaters, and to large exploitation working-class laborious on the earth. And we ourselves belong to working-class people and we try by the path of honest labour, so we may reap the necessary maintenance, and to
this we adopt our children to learn at wide school of Eternal Nature.
3. The school teaching separates all the people on the earth. Just as soon as the person reached read and'
write education, then, wichin a short time leaves his parents and relations and undertakes unreturnable
journey on all kinds of speculation, depravity and murder life. And never think off his duty, respecting
his parents and elder-ones, but he looks opposite, turning themselves, enslaving of the people, for theirs,
own licentious and insatiableness gluttony... .It is really dangerous to talk about all school education, to
what extent crack-brained people attain in highest royal universities, in education science, where, Glory
to God the common people is not admitted. But thousand times sorrowfully for this, well educated people,,
swallow down all the national peoples power and the capital... .And the people suffer from not having
land even a piece of daily bread.... And therefore we distinctly understand instruction of Christ, we holding
on to Community life and we calculate all the people on earth are our brothers and ones Fathers-Gods,
We understand all the people equal to Lord, and no one can servitude a man. We distinctly remember
instruction of Christ: "Whoever wants of youth's to be head, that's must be a servant to all." On the
above basis we evade to give whatever may be of an oath-promise and swear in submission to execute the,
orders of the people similar to us. But we submitted only a law of God, who the Christ said to his disciples :.
" Embrace the law of God in your minds and in your hearts and preach to the world."
Because we are as followers of Christ and his instructions, we are even against russian reading and.
writing, but the English edict is altogether useless.
More of all we calculate it is necessary for a man to revivak spiritual part, this we calculate necessary
is because, the Christ were ordinary man, without school and university who teaching spiritual man, with,
great horizontal MIND, permeability, depth centuries of past and coming of life and Light.
But educated Governors of earth and high-priests, in their's error-books and their's hard-hearted
crucified on cross, our Great-King-Reformer-of-Divinity Genius, from whom should learn all the kings and.
nobles, governors of earth, lawyers, and all the spiritual-prier's, inclusively to a common agriculturist.
And now if they want to repeat same on us with their cruel royal government power, then this will be-
only added to an ancient hard-hearted people not efface to disgrace and insipidity to ruin the peaceful
people, whom Christ calling to society evenness, and brotherhood to all people of the world. Our religion
confines in above said, by hope of our generation that the peace will come on earth and will gratitude with
the people.
Of all the past it seems to us, that we are unable to figure on to live constant in British Columbia, not
by our own personal caprice and choice of good land and so forth, but for not understanding us by surrounded
people book-worms at theirs selfish laws, the laws property material and alienation of all kinds of Apostolic
rights, preaching pious labour and equality to all the people on the earth.
Wearelsrail posterity birth from three Adolescent—Annanias, Azer and Missel, whom king nevechede-
neser consign to fire-stove. And the followers of Jesus Christ Eternal Glory of King and Lord our Saviour
of all the earth.
Glory to God.
The Doukhobor Community of Brilliant, British Columbia.
Power of Attorney's are:
Ceamur Becunbelurc Bepengarnr.
Anaemacur Mepemevumeba.
Uban Ebc. Kon-Kun.
Flagbuna X Cemenebna Beukuna.
(Neyanayual. )
At a later stage of the proceedings, a deputation of Doukhobors, consisting of J. W..
Sherbinin, John Kon-kin, and Simeon Verishagin, waited on the Commissioner at Victoria to
discuss the possibility of some understanding with respect to the observance of the obnoxious,
laws. Unfortunately, this discussion was complicated by the arrest of two of the Doukhobors.
at Grand Forks in connection with a further breach of the registration laws. These arrests
seemed to exasperate the Community, but whether the result would have been different if the
arrests had not been made can only be a matter of conjecture. At any rate, the deputies
returned to Brilliant with certain suggestions, and, having considered them in a Society
meeting at which 4,000 people were present, addressed the following letter to the Commissioner
on November 19th:—
The Christian Community oe Universal Brotherhood Doukhobors in Canada,
Brilliant, B.C., November 19th, 1912.
William Blakemore, Esq.,
Royal Commissioner, Victoria, B. C.
Dear Sir,—Our deputies, John E. Kon-kin, Simeon W. Verishagin, and John W. Sherbinin, arrived from,;
Vancouver and Victoria and have submitted to the Society your suggestions about the school and registration.
And we all four-thousand-group of people, men and women in Brilliant and Grand Forks, have declared
unisonantly in re our matter you have investigation a two month of time, for this time you indeed already 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobobs. T 53
understand telling you by us in a letter and by word of mouth, that the foundation of our belief is containing in Jesus Christ's teaching. Therefore the school question is settling aside by us. So as we could better
teach and educate our children ourselves in Jesus Christ's law and eternal righteousness, for which, as we
told you before, flows a torrent of martyrs' blood of holy people. And we not agree at all to teach our
children by foreign teachers and have darken by their science's children's our intellect. We are teaching
our children by private methods, by not sense of dead letter, but by sense of alive word. So that and
Christ embraced out his Apostles not from school educated at all, but out of simple agriculturist and fishers,
which was turned to worthly of all the world in people and over all scientifical of schools and university,
as Tzars, Kings, and Ministers. And the Doukhobors long time back follow their simple worthly and
honest example.    And on this we finish our final decision about the school.
The registration, about increase and  decrease of our Community the Government always may get
information in Doukhobor's office at Brilliant.
The land taxes we not refuse to fulfil.
For present of this letter the Society entrusted to deputies of Doukhobor Community, John Kon-kin
and Simeon Verishagin.
Yours truly,
(Signed.)       John Kon-kin,
Simeon Verishagin,
Deputies of the Doukhobor Society.
From this letter it will be seen that they had not departed one jot from the position which
they had always taken up, unless the clause in which they say that the Government can always
get information in the Doukhobor office at Brilliant about the increase and decrease of the
Community is to be regarded as a slight concession.
In addition to the letter which contains the ultimatum of the Community, a document
was forwarded on November 1st, on the instructions of the Community. This document was
prepared by one of their oldest and most respected members, Simeon W. Verashagin, and reads
in part as follows, the omission being simply a recital of their history in Russia, and does not
need repetition here :—
The Christian Community oe the Universal Brotherhood of the Doukhobors in Canada,
Brilliant, B.C., November 1st, 1912.
William Blakemore, Esq.,
Royal Commissioner,  Victoria, B.C.
Dear Sir,—Since you left Brilliant I feel constrained to write you a few equitable lines about our
Doukhobors' mode of life and religion from a long time back until now.
1st. By tradition of our forefathers the beginning of our Doukhobors originate from the three
Israel adolescents, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whom the wicked Assyrian King Nebuchadnezzar,
in Babylon, threw into the burning fiery furnace.
2nd. The faith of Doukhobors is taken from Jesus Christ, whom the ancients Government killed on
the Cross for Truth.
3rd. We in spirit and soul confess God, but we Doukhobors refuse churches made of wood and stone upon
which the people expend so much labour and money long since ago. God's Spirit and Wisdom dwell in the
heart of the humble believer in Jesus Christ, and this Divine Church we recognize in every part of the
For the building ot this Divine Church it is not required that men's hands and money be employed.
"Where two or three are gathered in Christ's name, God is amongst them."
4th. In the life beyond the tomb the soul passes into eternity, and we recognize as for holy ideal that
the souls of the righteous inhabit eternity with the Lord in the province of radiant light, and in the bosom
of the Heavenly Father ; but sinners will never perceive Divine Light	
Our party of 2,200 people left the Caucasus coast per steamship in the early part of May, 1899, the
journey occupying twenty-seven days.
By God's grace we reached the American coast safely. We were held in quarantine for a whole month,
and in the early part of July we took train from Quebec to a place near to Yorkton, Sask.
In Quebec the Minister of Canada, Mr. Sifton, met us at the railway station and complimented all with
favour, and said : " Glory to God that you came out from Russia as from Egypt, where you and your forefathers terribly tormented now come to a country of liberty ; here you can rest and live your own faith as
you wish. All that will be required from you is that you pay $10 for homesteads, and S2 for road taxes."
In this way the Minister assured us. His words were interpreted to our Doukhobors word by word by a
Russian interpreter, and our old men greatly rejoiced over the words of the Minister and thanked him.
The Doukhobors settled in Yorkton District, fifty miles from the railway amongst the marshes and
forest. This land from the beginning was only waste on which the cattle-breeder only herded their cattle,
and told us Doukhobors that the ground so froze as not to permit the growing of any grain-crops.
The Doukhobors, however, trusting in the favour of God and one's labour, settled and started to build
houses from the bush. They hauled the timber themselves and began clearing the land of timber, and
ploughed it themselves, not having any working animals, nor were they able to buy them. The ploughs
were drawn by the women and the men went out to earn some money, and in extreme and great want the
Doukhobors lived from three to four years before they were able to provide bread. After from six to seven
years the Doukhobors turned this waste and unpeopled land into a cultivated grain-field. T 54 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
They started their own grain-ship to sell in large quantities, and at this time the Government through
their agents start to suggest to the Doukhobors that they become citizens to Britain's King. But the
Doukhobors answered them : " We came from Russia to Canada for the very reason that we should not
become citizens of any except God, and buy our homesteads, for which we paid $ 10 each " ; but the Doukhobors were only allowed to occupy those homesteads for a very short time, as in the seventh and eighth years
the Doukhobor homesteads were confiscated, while the Government ignored the fact that all this once waste
land was cultivated into a grain-field by the hard labours and sweat of the Doukhobors. Seeing that the
land was confiscated from them and to live in Saskatchewan without land would be impossible, we decided
to send three deputies to buy land for themselves with their own money, thinking that the Government
would not disturb us with any of their obligations. Our trustees bought the land in British Columbia in a
wild and mountainous district covered with thick forest, and in about four years the Doukhobors cleared
the great timbers and cultivated these dales, turning them into one of the fruitful orchards ; after we put a
very great amount of labour and money into the land the Government are not now going to allow us to live
quietly, but start to arrest our brothers and put into gaol, and that not for any important matter ; but all
the Government's tortures and threats could not stop the Doukhobors on their holy path, because they
strongly believe Christ's word : " If they persecute me they will also persecute you, but do not be afraid
of them that kill the body, as the soul cannot be killed."
What an evidence to'our young generation, thousands of martyrs' graves Buffering in a victory for the
truth. There in our native country far on the other side of the ocean where the ground is stained by the
blood of holy people, from Christ until our day ; and why do not the inhabitants of Canada pay any hearty
attention to the Doukhobors' sufferings ? Is it because they calculate the Doukhobor strangers, or that they
do not believe in Jesus Christ, but the law of God long ago threatened the insults of effrontery and falsehood in a day terrible, and will again in witness of Jesus Christ change to the very foundation all the
incorrect laws of man.
The Members or the Christian Community of the Universal Brotherhood.
(Signed.)    Simeon W. Verishagan.
This statement shows how they regard the arrest and imprisonment of their fellows, and
how they make use of the fact to offer a practical nonpossumus to all suggestions for compliance
with the requirements of the registration laws and " Schools Act."
A brief summary of their objections may be thus set out. They will not register because
they desire to remain unmolested in their communal life. They want no interference, as they
call it, which means no intrusion of any kind. They claim that birth and death are the acts
of God, and call for no cognizance on the part of man; and as to marriage, they take the high
ground that it is purely a matter between the contracting parties. Then they raise the
objection that in Russia registration was used as a means of tracing those who might become
liable to military service, and while they admit that conditions in Canada are somewhat different, and that they have their Order in Council granting them immunity, still they profess to
have no confidence in the future, and claim that possible developments which cannot at present
be foreseen might swing them into the vortex of war.
With reference to schools, they take the ground that education unfits the young for the
pursuits of the peasant, that this has become a problem already in nearly all countries ; that
their children are being educated in the best sense of the word, in their homes and on the soil,
by being held down to the simple beliefs and traditions of their forefathers. They also fear
that education will inoculate their children with the ideas of their educators, which they claim
are alien to the Doukhobor belief; that people who can prosecute and persecute Doukhobors
and throw them into gaol for what they consider is not an offence, but simply a conscientious
discharge of a religious duty, are not safe people to be entrusted with the education of
Doukhobor children—that the children would imbibe the same harsh, unjust, and cruel ideas.
These reasons are a fair reflection of the Doukhobor mind in its primitive state, and, as
has already been pointed out in this Report, are still firmly held by a large section of the
Community, and by practically all the older members. The children are being imbued with
the same ideas, but, in spite of efforts to the contrary, the leaven has entered and is already
working. And the few who have acquired a knowledge of our language and have made some
advance in elementary education are not likely long to remain ignorant.
A fitting conclusion to this chapter will be found in the very interesting letter written by
Miss Buelah Clarke, who was for several months the teacher in the Doukhobor School at
Brilliant. This young lady is a certificated Canadian teacher and is spoken of by the Doukhobors in the highest terms. They admit that it would be impossible to find a more suitable
person, or one to whom they could raise less objection, and yet at the end of the first term
they closed the school, and notified Miss Clarke that she would not be wanted again.
In order to test the statements that had been made, and also to obtain Miss Clarke's
version of her experience there, to which she replied by letter, as she had moved away and 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 55
taken charge of another school at Creston.    The questions asked, together with Miss Clarke's
reply, follow :—
1. Q.—While teaching at Brilliant, where did you reside? A.—While teaching at Brilliant, I resided
in a corner room on the first floor of the school-house.
2. Q.—In whose house, and who were the other occupants (give names and ages of each person)?
A.—My companion, a widow of about fifty, lived with me. We were the only occupants of the building,
except for about three weeks, when Maria Alexandrona, a Russian girl, had a room upstairs. My
companion's first name was Masha (Mary). I cannot tell you her last name, as I heard it only once. I had
my meals at the next house, the one occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Sokareff. The meals were prepared by
Caloosha, an old lady who lived in that house, and by my companion. My companion ate with me, and we
had a small table with a tablecloth, and a good supply of dishes.
2a. Q.—What arrangements were made about your food, and who cooked it? Give particulars of your
dietary for each meal of a sample day. A. (continued).—Menu: Breakfast—Excellent bread, butter, a glass
of milk, soup made with potatoes, onions, butter, and a grain something like oatmeal. Potatoes and onions
fried in butter. Baked apple or preserves. Dinner—Bread, butter, milk, vegetable soup. Beans, peas,
and cabbages boiled together. Pancakes, made very thin and usually without baking-powder. Melted
butter is poured over them, and I ate them either with sugar or jam. Supper—Bread, butter, milk,
" lapshe." This is made from flour and water. It is rolled very thin and then shredded and put into boiling water ; butter is added, and very often there are small pieces of potato with it. Preserves, turnovers ;
these are made from bread-dough, rolled very thin. Mashed potatoes were put in some, and rhubarb and
sugar in others.    They were put in the frying-pan and baked in a brick oven.
3. Q.—Did the food agree with you, or did you suffer in any respect, especially from dyspepsia or any
stomach-trouble ? A.—The food agreed with me all right. I suffered neither from dyspepsia nor stomach-
trouble.    The lack of variety was a little bit hard.
4. Q.—What arrangements were made with reference to your bedroom ; was it comfortable, and entirely
private? A.—My bedroom was very comfortable. Everything in it was new. I had a nice white iron bed,
and very nice bedding. A bureau with a good looking-glass and two tables. They also picked out the best
sewing-machine in the colony, and put it in my room for my use. My companion had a bed similar to mine,
and shared the room with me. This arrangement suited me very well, as she was a most kind and thoughful
person. I have never been better taken care of. During the daytime I often had a great many visitors. I
think many of them came for fear I would be lonely. I always made them welcome, and was glad to have
them. At times, if my companion thought I was tired or busy, she would send them away. There were
locks to all the windows and to the outside doors. There were curtains at the windows. By locking the
door and putting down the curtains I could be alone at any time I desired.
5. Q.—What were the bath-room arrangements ? A.—Each group of houses has a large bath-room in
the long low building back of the houses. On Saturday morning all the women bathe. I had mine in the
bath-room belonging to the next house.
6. Q.—Did you, during your residence in the Community, observe anything which would justify a
suspicion that the people were not perfectly well conducted and moral? A.—I saw nothing during my
residence in the Community that would justify a suspicion that the people were not perfectly well conducted
and moral.    I saw everything to the contrary.
7. Q.—Were you aware that there was considerable overcrowding in the Community ; if so, did you
witness or become acquainted with any ill effects, not upon yourself, but upon others? A.—I was not
aware that there was much overcrowding in the Community. Each bedroom had a window, and I think
there were not more than two to a room, unless it was an extra large one, and then only members of the
same family. The young women whom I knew had rooms to themselves. In June, when a large number of
new people came, they were a little more crowded than they were before, but I understood it was only
temporary. I noticed that in some houses the piazzas were curtained off, and perhaps a family slept out
there. As it was warm weather, they would feel no discomfort. I think you would find more sickness
among the same number of Canadians than you do among the Doukhobors.
8. Q.—What do you say about the personal habits and cleanliness—{a) of the children, (6) of the people?
A.—(o.) My forty-eight pupils always had clean hands and faces, and were neat in their appearance. They
were very well behaved, were always courteous and respectful, and as far as I could see had no bad habits.
I had every chance to observe them, for they came to the school-house very early in the morning, and some
of them returned after supper at night. (6.) The older people are equally clean and neat, and their habits
are good.    The men are respectful and thoughtful to the women, and are very kind to the children.
9. Q.—Did you form the impression that the people are sincerely religious as they claim ; did you form
the impression that their claim that they believe in and try to follow the teachings of Christ is an absolutely
genuine one, and not a cloak for anything else? A.—I formed the opinion that the people are sincerely
religious, and that their claim that they believe in and try to follow the teachings of Christ is an absolutely
genuine one, and not a cloak for anything else.
10. Q.—Had you any personal acquaintance with Mr. Peter Verigin, Mr. John Sherbinin, Mr. John
Kon-kin, Mr. George Verigin? If so, will you please state fully your personal impressions of each,
especially as regards their character, their sincerity, and honesty of purpose? A.—I did not get to know
Mr. Peter Verigin very well. He called at the school one morning and seemed interested in the work. He
told me that his people would like to have me stay with them as long as I felt I could. He asked me to
teach the children some English songs. I had no dealings with him. He was always pleasant when I met
him, either bowing or shaking hands. Once he remarked to some one standing by that he would like to talk
to me if he could. I met Mr. John Sherbinin a number of times, and I consider him a man of strong
character, great sincerity, and honesty of purpose. I do not know whether I know Mr. John Kon-kin or
not. His name is not familiar. If I knew his office, I could tell better. I had no acquaintance with Mr.
George Verigin. T 56 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Objection that Doukhobors do not Trade with Retail Stores—Evidence shows Extensive Purchases from
Canadian Wholesalers, Little from Retailers—Extract from Community Books showing Total Purchases
in British Columbia—Statement of Similar Purchases in Saskatchewan—Difference of Opinion among
Retailers—Complaint is Practically Confined to Grand Forks—Second Sitting there at Request of
Citizens' Committee—Citizens' Counsel Withdraws and Makes Written Statement—Question of Competing with Other Producers—Experience of Doukhobor Trading in Saskatchewan Favourable to
Community—Co-operation of Community with Canadian Farmers to raise Value of Produce—Similar
Arrangement Contemplated with Fruit-growers in British Columbia—Manager Kootenay Fruit-growers'
Association Favourable to Doukhobors—Intention to Build Additional Jam-factories—Familiarity of
Verigin with Market and Trade Conditions—Project to Establish Warehouses and Cold-storage Plants
Throughout Prairie Provinces—American Competition and Slaughter Prices—High Business Standing
of Doukhobor Community with Mercantile Houses.
Previous chapters have dealt with all the complaints against the Doukhobors on account
of their non-observance of laws in force in British Columbia. But an objection has been raised,
to a very limited extent in Nelson, and to a greater extent in Grand Forks, which, while it
does not rest upon any legal basis, must, nevertheless, if sustained, have some weight in determining whether or not the Doukhobor is a desirable settler.
The objection is that he does not transact business with the local tradesmen, as private
individuals do; but that, instead, the manager of the Community purchases all his supplies by
car-load, and distributes them from the Community warehouses.
As a statement of fact, this is true of the Community Doukhobors, and, of course, the
complaint has reference only to them, because the independent Doukhobor who has left the
Community does his shopping where he pleases.
But is this an unfair method of conducting business, and does it entitle the local tradesmen to register a complaint ?
The defence of the business managers of the Community is that they are traders. Their
registered title is " The Doukhobor Trading Company," and they claim that in purchasing
wholesale instead of retail they are only following the example of many other—indeed, of all—
organized companies who have a large number of people to provide for. They point out that
railway companies, contracters, and many other large employers of labour adopt this method,
and that the Doukhobors do it with even more show of reason, because they are a close community, and the ownership of all goods is communal, not individual. They claim that it
would be unreasonable and absurd to compel them to purchase all the food and clothing
required for more than 5,000 people, or even a considerable percentage of it, from retail stores.
During the course of the investigation, the Commissioner found that as affecting this
question some very erronous ideas were held.
For instance, witnesses who made the complaint that Doukhobors made no local purchases
from retailers were not aware that they made extensive purchases from wholesalers. The
general impression seemed to be that they bought nearly all their goods either in Eastern
Canada or the United States, while the actual figures, taken by the Commissioner from their
trading books, showed this to be entirely wrong.
Appended is a statement of all the merchandise purchased by the Community from the
beginning of their Settlement, early in 1909, to September of the present year, and it is
instructive as showing that of a total purchase amounting to $317,845, no less than $225,421
had been purchased from wholesalers in British Columbia, $75,361 from Eastern Canadian
wholesalers, and the inconsiderable sum of $17,062 from the United States:—
Statement of Merchandise purchased prom the Beginning op the Settlement
until September 1st, 1912.
Bought of J. H. Ashdown Hardware Co., Wood, Vallance
Hardware Co., and A. Macdonald & Co., of Nelson, B.C. $   57,927 75
Bought from Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster,B.C.       85,769 48
Bought  from  different points in  the  Province of British
Columbia        81,724 72
Total   $225,421 95
Bought from Eastern Canada, from different cities    $   75,361  46
Bought from U.S.A         17,062 24 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 57
It may also be instructive, as showing that the Doukhobors pursued the same policy in
Saskatchewan in respect to their purchases as they have established in British Columbia, to
know that during the month of August, 1912, the Saskatchewan Colonies purchased from
Canadian wholesalers in Yorkton, Medicine Hat, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal goods to
the value of $188,621, and paid to the various railway companies for freight and transportation
no less a sum than $136,081. This, with interest to banks of $7,029, made a total expenditure
for the year of $327,027.
In the face of these figures, it is impossible to argue that the Doukhobor is no good to
the Province in which he lives, as a trader; and, while it is true that he does only a limited
amount of business with local retailers, he is only exercising his right to purchase wholesale,
as any similar organization would do. Indeed, to quote perhaps one of the highest precedents,
the Army and Navy Stores in England are expressly designed to give the advantage of
practically wholesale prices in a corporate body because a large number of people have united
for a common purpose.
In this connection, however, it is only fair to say that there is no prejudice on the part
of the Doukhobors against the retail stores, because they use them to a limited extent, purely
as a matter of convenience.
There is another striking feature of this complaint—that in both Nelson and Grand Forks
there is a marked difference of opinion, even among storekeepers. One retail trader would come
along and say that he had no fault to find with the Doukhobors; that they purchased considerable goods from his store, and that he found them satisfactory customers. Another would
come and say that he had no use for them ; that they did no business with him, and he did not
seem to be aware that they patronized other stores.
As a matter of fact, it was only at Grand Forks that any serious complaint was made,
and, in the end, this complaint was not sustained. The Commissioner was led to expect a
large body of evidence adverse to the Doukhobors, both in connection with their trading and
their personal conduct. But the evidence adduced did not bear out this representation. On
the occasion of the first hearing of thirty-seven witnesses examined, eighteen witnesses were
distinctly favourable to the Doukhobors and fifteen against them. Finding that there was a
preponderance in their favour, some of the leading citizens requested the Commissioner to hold
a second sitting, to give them an opportunity to secure counsel and prepare a case, as they felt
that the evidence adduced did not fully and fairly represent the opinion of the citizens.
The Commissioner assented, and the second sitting was held ten days later. On this
occasion Mr. Sutton appeared and stated that he had been instructed by a citizens' committee,
that committee having been appointed by a public meeting.
Mr. Sutton called only four witnesses, when he announced that he was not prepared to
go on, as he found the inquiry had fully covered the ground he wished to cover, and he had
no other witnesses to call.
Mr. Sutton tendered a written statement, setting forth certain opinions adverse to the
Doukhobors. This statement is attached to the evidence herein, and their objections will be
dealt with in the findings of the Commission.
Apart from the question of the purchases by the Doukhobor Community, the point has
been raised as to their competing with other producers. It has been urged that the fact that
they have control of such a large amount of labour gives them an advantage which they could
use to crush out other fruit-growers. For instance, it was alleged that in Grand Forks in
particular they have flooded the local market with vegetables at a lower price than was being
charged by individual producers.
As to whether the Doukhobors could, if they set themselves the task, crowd other producers
out of the market by reason of their control of a large amount of labour which does not draw
wages, there can be no question; but as to the probability of their adopting such a policy there
is certainly no evidence that they are likely to do so, and it would ajipear to be entirely opposed
to their own interests and the probabilities of the case.
The experience of their competitors in Saskatchewan, an experience that was related to
the Commissioner on unquestionable authority during his visit to the Prairie Province, was
that their trading system had honestly benefited their competitors.
For instance, when they commenced business in Saskatchewan, the farmers were in the
hands of the Grain-growers' Association of Winnipeg, which, in respect, for instance, to oats,
was charging from 10 to 12 cents a bushel for elevator use and marketing, which meant that,
when oats were being marketed at 29 or 30 cents, the farmer received only 18 cents.    The T 58 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Doukhobors erected their own elevators in which they marketed their own oats, and also everything offering from their neighbours. They charged only 1^ cents a bushel for elevating and
marketing, and so they raised the price to the farmer from 18 to 28 cents; and they have
continued to do business on this basis to date.
It is in evidence that they were approached by a representative of the Grain-growers'
Association of Winnipeg, and the Doukhobor manager himself was subjected to severe criticism,
and other efforts were made to induce him to come into line with the association; but he ignored
the requests.
Something similar is contemplated in connection with the fruit-growing industry in British
Columbia. Among the many witnesses examined at Nelson and Grand Forks, there were very
few who anticipated any danger from Doukhobor competition, and those who are in the best
position to judge—such as the manager of the Kootenay Fruit-growers' Association, Mr.
Raymond Hicks—roundly declared that they anticipated no such difficulty. He took the
ground that so far as the Doukhobors had traded in fruit and jam-making they had benefited
the industry ; the market was so much larger than the supply that he considered there was
room for everybody, and there was far more to fear in the way of competition from American
fruit, imported at slaughter prices, than from any possible competition from the Doukhobors.
This view was endorsed by most of the large fruit-ranchers, of whom Messrs. J. J. Campbell
and J. P. Bealby may be regarded as fair representatives. These fruit-growers praised the
Doukhobors for the assistance they had given the industry in supplying cheap labour to pick
the fruit. It was shown that in most cases they had contracted to both purchase and pick the
fruit for use in their own jam-factory, and that they had paid a higher price than could possibly
have been secured if the grower had hired his own labour for picking.
Some of the growers contended that this aid could not be regarded as permanent, and that
they were afraid to plant out any large area of fruit-trees lest the labour for picking should
not be available.
When this matter was put before Mr. Sherbinin, he said that it was the intention of the
Doukhobors to increase the number of jam-factories in British Columbia, and that at all these
factories they would be prepared to purchase fruit from the growers, and would also be
prepared to furnish the labour for picking it. He went further, and outlined the policy which
Mr. Verigin had determined upon, and that was that the Doukhobors would not only take
the small fruits at their jam-factories, but would be prepared to do the same for the shipping
fruit in the Kootenay as they had done for the grain in Saskatchewan, and market it with
their own produce wherever a market could be found.
In proof of this, the following advertisement was inserted in the Nelson Daily News
by the secretary of the Doukhobor Jam-factory :—
Excessive Fruit-crop.
The Kootenay Columbia Preserving Works, having learned that a very large number of fruit-growers
are absolutely unable to find a market, at any price, for their excessive crop of apples, pears, and plums,
they have made special arrangements to handle large quantities of same rather than allow the fruit to be
lost, and they are willing to take immediate shipments at special prices to be obtained on application at the
R. C. Teviotdale,
Secretary-Treasurer, Nelson, B.C.
As showing the thoroughness with which Mr. Verigin has studied all the economic
questions affecting the interests of the Community Doukhobors, he outlined his scheme for
marketing fruit. He realized the keenness of American competition, and the impossibility of
selling against the American producer unless something were done to eliminate the middleman.
He therefore proposed to erect large warehouses, with cold-storage, in the principal cities on the
Prairies. He would ship fruit from British Columbia to these warehouses, and distribute it
through Doukhobor agencies, without the intervention of middlemen or commission agents;
and he wished to go on record as promising the full benefit of this system to the independent
fruit-growers who might be willing to place their produce in his hands.
This system is one which undoubtedly must be adopted not only by the Doukhobors, but
by others, for evidence is accumulating almost daily to show that there is little chance of
British Columbia fruit successfully controlling the Prairie market as it should, so long as it.
passes through the hands of middlemen who extort an excessive profit. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 59
The question of American competition rests on another basis. It ought to be possible to
do something with fruit that is " dumped " at slaughter prices, and which, as was proved in
evidence before this Commission, nets the American grower little or nothing after freight and
duty charges are paid. This is the one destructive factor in the Canadian fruit trade, and was
emphasized by the most expert witnesses in Nelson and Grand Forks.
The only other aspect of Doukhobor trading which seems to call for comment in this
chapter has already been touched upon in preceding chapters—that is, their reputation, their
integrity, and business standing.
The investigation revealed the fact that every one is anxious to do business with them,
and those who have, pronounced their business transactions eminently satisfactory. In
some cases their word was taken instead of the usual written agreement, although large sums
of money were involved, and not one instance came under the notice of the Commissioner in
which they failed to live up to their obligations. Bank managers speak of them in the highest
terms, as customers whose accounts were most welcome. The largest trading firm gives them
almost unlimited credit, and their books show that they are doing business with many of the
best-known leading wholesalers and manufacturers in the Dominion.
Their business affairs are in the hands of men of integrity and of remarkable ability,
presided over by one man who must be pronounced a genius—Peter Verigin. T 60 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Unquestioned Leader of Doukhobors—Identified with all their Important Movements—Directed Policy from
Siberia—Meets Count Tolstoi in Moscow—Secured him as Permanent Friend of Community—His Offioial
Leadership Admitted by Important Witnesses—His Authority Weakened in Saskatchewan—Conditions
in British Columbia More Favourable to Communal Life—A Benevolent Despot—Deference Paid to
Verigin—Commanding and Impressive Appearance—Change in Mode of Life since First Coming to
Canada—Magnificent Residence Built by Him in Saskatchewan—Never Occupied—Recognizes Changing
Conditions—Attitude Toward Observance of Law—Effect of Imprisonment on Doukhobor Mind—Playing into Their Leader's Hand—Dr. Patrick's Opinion—The Real Problem not the Doukhobors, but
Peter Verigin.
No one who has studied the history of the Doukhobors for the last thirty years can doubt
that Peter Verigin is their deus ex machina. He is not only their appointed leader, but he
has been identified with every important movement they have made.
Peter Verigin was born in Transcaucasia fifty-two years ago. We find him leading the
Doukhobors in rebellion against military service as early as 1886, with the result that he was
exiled to Siberia.
We find him directing their policy, counselling and advising them from his home in
Tobolsk, and maintaining communication with the Community by means of trusty messengers,
who travelled in their sleighs over the snow for 2,000 miles to reach their leader.
When, in his absence, persecution increased, he finally issued an edict for the burning of
arms, as the last emphatic protest against military service. It was compliance with this edict
that led to the most violent scenes that had yet been enacted in the history of the Doukhobors.
It was Peter Verigin who enlisted the sympathy of Count Tolstoi for his people, and
there is no greater testimony to his strength and importance than the endorsation he received
from that great Russian. As Verigin was being transferred from Archangel to Tobolsk he
passed through Moscow, and was temporarily incarcerated in the prison there. From this
place he sent a message to Count Tolstoi, and the latter paid him a visit. What took place in
that prison cell is known only in part, but the result was to arouse the sympathies and engage
the help of Tolstoi, who from that moment identified himself with the fortunes of the Doukhobors, used his influence for their liberation, and ultimately sold his works in order to
augment their funds.
It was Peter Verigin who, from his exile in Tobolsk, advised, and by his personal appeal
to the Dowager Empress Alexandra ultimately secured, the permission of the Tzar for the
Doukhobors to emigrate.
After they had settled in Saskatchewan and had created so much difficulty for the
Canadian Government, it was to Peter Verigin that the latter turned, and, again by the aid
of high influence, he was permitted to leave Siberia before the expiration of his term and to
take up his position in Canada as the rightful head of the Community. From that day to this
he has directed all their affairs. Not a movement has been made of which he was not the
origin. He is everywhere recognized as the one man in authority. It is true that he disclaims
that authority; that he classes himself as one of the rank and file, and maintains that he is in
all things subject to the decisions of the assembly. But such a claim is untenable in view of
the evidence adduced. He is on all hands acclaimed as the leader. The most influential men
in the Community acknowledged this in their evidence. It was found that no matter of
importance could be settled without reference to him; that all authority was vested in him;
that, whatever he might elect to be called, or however much he might seek to belittle his own
position, the fact remained that he had supreme authority, however derived, and that from the
smallest incidents in their lives to the most important he was the one and only arbiter.
It is idle to contest this point, and although there have been defections from the ranks
(if one excludes the thousand who left in Saskatchewan, because, in leaving, they greatly
enriched themselves and became individual land-owners), there have been but few who have
dared to dispute Peter Verigin's authority, or who have had the courage to leave the Community. That the thousand should have left is not to be so greatly wondered at when it is
remembered that the Russian is a great lover of money and property, and that the Doukhobor 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 61
is no exception to this rule. It was a case of racial instincts being too strong for special belief,,
and no one knows this better than Peter Verigin himself.
It is because he saw that this desire for greater freedom and the individual ownership of
property would spread in the future, and that the thousand who had left would be followed by
others who would also like to own their own land and have the spending of their own money,
that he determined to move the whole to a country where the conditions would be more
favourable to Community rule and to the maintenance of his authority.
The man who understands Peter Verigin calls him "a benevolent despot," and the title
is not misplaced. That he is benevolent cannot be denied, for all his schemes aim at the benefit
of the Community and the maintenance of its integrity. Peter Verigin is a great man in every
sense, though with the limitations and imperfections which most great men have manifested.
He is a man of great mental capacity and force. He has inherited the characteristics of his
race, among which reasoning capacity, diplomatic skill, and subtlety are prominent.
The history and traditions of his people, his own sufferings, his contact with great men,
have been his education, and to-day he is fortified with an experience, a diplomatic training, a
knowledge of men and affairs, and a degree of self-control which fit him for any occasion he
may have to meet.
The greatest tribute to his ability is the manner in which he has for thirteen years been
able, with comparative success, to hold his people together in the midst of an environment
entirely alien to their ideas, their cherished beliefs, and their ambitions. In the freest country
in the world, where individual freedom is the key-note of government and of social life, he still
holds six-sevenths of the original settlement in the thrall of Community life, with individuality
extinguished, except for his own personal control.
It is true that power and authority are nominally vested in the assembly, and that
periodical meetings are held at which decisions on all matters of moment are arrived at; but
behind all these decisions looms the gigantic figure of the leader. It is impossible to doubt
that they reflect his wishes, unless one is to accept the conclusion that he has lost control and
that the Community rules itself.
But this is impossible to believe. One has only to witness the deference paid to him; the
certainty with which his wishes are adopted; the docility with which his various projects are
carried out; the practical unanimity with which the members of the Community yield him
obedience, to recognize that Peter Verigin is no mere nominal head, but in fact (what he has
been called) " a theocratic Tzar."
Nor is this to be wondered at. For, while he is surrounded by men of great natural
intelligence and shrewdness, many of whom have shared with him the sufferings and privations,
of persecution and exile, he towers head and shoulders above them all. He inherits not only
the genius, but the capacity, for governing, and combines in his person the religious instincts,
the natural endowments, the magnetism, and the force which make him at once irresistible and
His personality is both attractive and impressive. He is a big man in every sense of the
word—tall, broad, muscular, massive, with a fine head, great natural dignity of carriage, and
the very atmosphere of strength exuding from every pore. Yet, like many such men, he has
a remarkably gentle manner. He speaks in a low tone of voice, but it is so musical and sweet
as to be almost seductive.
His every movement is marked by a natural courtesy and simple dignity that would
signal him out for notice anywhere. His features are regular and his skin of an olive pallor.
His hair and beard were jet-black, but are now streaked with iron-grey. His eyes are dark
and thoughtful, and in moments of excitement shine with hidden fire. His whole expression
is that of a man who has suffered much, and has triumphed over everything through the force
of courage and constancy.
No one can be in his presence long without believing in his benevolence. It is his nature
to be kind, and no man could be kinder to those who obey him. How far he can be harsh to.
those who question his authority is a matter of doubt. He cannot delight in this, because
acts of deliberate cruelty are inconsistent with the religious belief of the Doukhobor; and,,
whatever else may be said against Peter Verigin, there has been no suggestion against his
fidelity to the principles on which the whole fabric of the Doukhobor Community is built,
which it is the one obsession of his life to strengthen. He has fought before against persecution ; he is fighting now against environment, and against the other disintegrating influences
which have already made serious inroads on his Community, and which threaten to overwhelm it. T 62 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Peter Verigin has not deceived himself. He knows that he is in a different civilization
from the Russian. He may even feel in his heart of hearts that he may have no successor,
and that the existence of a Community within a community, in Canada, is an anachronism.
It is possible that there are moments when he realizes that his own power is slipping away,
and this may account for such drastic measures of discipline as the one which he recently
adopted in Saskatchewan.
It is possible that the Community at Brilliant spoke the truth and reflected their innermost
thoughts when they combated Peter Verigin's own advice to allow their school to be reopened.
And when, in reply to the statement of the Commissioner that Mr. Verigin had expressed
himself in favour of this, they deprecated his advice, and went so far as to say that he was too
favourable to the Government.
There are evidences that Peter Verigin has on more than one occasion modified his plans
in order to strengthen his hold on the Community, and this is specially true of some of his
personal habits.
For instance, when he first arrived in Canada his dress was that of a gentleman of means
and good taste, and he had six or seven different equipages. He drove in state from village
to village, accompanied by a band of singers, and in his travels from place to place was
invariably accompanied by a number of young women. The sharp tongue of criticism was
let loose. Such display was declared to be inconsistent in the leader of a people whose primitive habits had always been praised and who were seeking in a new country to continue living
the "simple life." The equipages were abandoned ; a magnificent new house, which the leader
had built for himself at an alleged cost of $75,000, was never occupied, and it stands to this
day as empty as when it was built. Then the old straw hat, rough clothing, and trousers
bound at the leg-bottoms with binder-twine were once more effected. Indeed, this was the
garb in which he appeared at the sittings of the Commissioner at Nelson; and one can hardly
doubt that this striking change was a tribute to the effectiveness of the criticism offered, and
an attempt to revert to the old-fashioned, austere appearance with which the Community had
been familiarized in Russia.
It may be that Peter Verigin was a true prophet when he said at Nelson that if the
people could be assured, and feel confidence in the assurance, that there was no possibility of
their becoming embroiled in military service, many of them might become naturalized British
subjects. Indeed, it is hard to resist the conclusion that a man of such mental endowments—
one who has travelled so far and seen so much, and who has been in Canada long enough to
study conditions and to observe the character of our constitutional government—must believe
that it is impossible permanently to maintain the communal system in its intregity in our
But Peter Verigin has to deal with things as they are to-day. He has a Community of
8,000 people on his hands. He is their responsible head, as well as their religious leader.
They came to Canada at his suggestion. They have been terribly disappointed in their
experience on the Prairies. They have had to contend with an unsuitable climate, with other
forbidding conditions, and, above all, with what they have regarded as an unsympathetic and
unjust Government; and yet a Government that has made many concessions and sacrifices in
order to satisfy the requirements of a people who, in spite of their vagaries, were regarded as
desirable settlers.
The fight has been a long one. Peter Verigin emerged with serious loss, both in following
and reputation. His authority was undermined. He was deserted by a thousand of his people,
and their desertion meant the abandonment by them of the communal system and the triumph
of individual ownership. He was deserted also by some of his leading men, who enriched
themselves at the expense of the Community, and established independent businesses on the
outside; and he was deserted by a few who tired of what they regarded as autocratic rule.
To remain in Saskatchewan under such conditions was to court final defeat. It would
have been to subject the Community to the constant pressure of influences which had already
shown themselves strong enough to make serious inroads. The wise leader looked afield.
With admirable skill and judgment, he selected a Province where climate and natural conditions would be in every sense congenial, and where, by purchasing from private owners the
whole of the land required, he would at once eliminate one of the most serious disintegrating
influences, and would obviate the greatest difficulty he had had to contend with in Saskatchewan
conflict with the Government over land titles.    Then, the isolation of the Community among 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 63
the mountains of British Columbia would lessen the pressure from the outside, and would be
more favourable to the maintenance of Community customs, habits, and practices, and ensure
that insularity so essential to his ambition.
Just how far Peter Verigin thought it possible to continue resistance to the registration
laws and the " Schools Act " is even now a matter of doubt. That is a question which he alone
can answer, and he has not answered it, but it is possible to gather from his evidence that he
did not expect immunity, because he yielded to pressure in establishing a school at Brilliant and
in arranging for the children of the Doukhobors to attend the public school at Grand Forks ;
and while he never agreed to comply with the registration laws, he went as far as to suggest
that the desired information would be supplied by the Community at stated times.
Knowing the law, and he admitted that he did know it, it is hardly possible to conceive
that he did not expect to be called upon to comply with it. And then, what did he suppose
would happen?    Again, there is room for conjecture, and no certain answer.
The view of Dr. Patrick, of Yorkton, a gentleman whose opinion is entitled to the
highest respect, is that the Doukhobors love persecution.
A reference to his statement appended to the evidence will show that on the notorious
march or pilgrimage at Yorkton the Doukhobors expected persecution; his graphic words are
that " their backs were itching for the knout " ; he claims that it is persecution from without
which, like a ring fence, has kept the Community together, and that nothing would serve
Peter Verigin's purpose better to-day than the imprisonment of some of their number for
non-compliance with the law. He thinks that such a course would be playing into the hands
of the leader, as the people would regard it as a punishment for obeying his "holy will."
This opinion is given for what it is worth. Dr. Patrick has known these people ever
since they came to Canada, and if this conclusion is sound, it furnishes the strongest argument
for seeking some other means of enforcing the law rather than making martyrs of a misguided
But, through it all, the figure of Peter Verigin stands majestic and all-powerful. Whether
or not he is losing control as evidenced by the growing dissatisfaction of the young men of the
Community, or whether the number of the disaffected is so few that they cannot be regarded
as representative, the fact remains that the Community affairs are in the hands of a man who
is well able to handle them; who has achieved the most remarkable results; who is indeed a
father to his people, teaching, guiding, and encouraging them; who combines with a unique
knowledge of the Doukhobors, their history, their beliefs, and their character a business ability
and a technical knowledge of everything connected with land and farming of such a remarkable
order as to ensure prosperity and comfort for all the people under his control, if they can be
brought to such a compliance with the laws of the country as will admit of his plans being
carried out.
The real problem before the Government of British Columbia is not the Doukhobors, but
their leader—Peter Verigin. T 64 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
Objections raised to the Doukhobors as settlers have been dealt with in the previous
chapters as they arose. The only points not covered are those set forth in a statement dated
September 23rd, 1912, presented to the Court in Grand Forks by a committee of citizens.
That statement is attached to the evidence herein, and the objections are as follows :—
(1.) That the Doukhobors are likely, by reason of their large land-holdings, to swamp
the community, and that locally their numbers might become so large that it
would be impossible for them to be assimilated with the resident population.
To this the only answer is that the total land-holdings of the Doukhobors in the Grand
Forks District aggregate only 4,182 acres, out of an estimated total of at least 30,000 acres
suitable for fruit-farming.    The sale of further lands to these people is entirely within the
control of the owners;   and, if it should be a detriment to the country generally, the remedy
is in their own hands.
If it is borne in mind that there are only 2,500 Doukhobors, or thereabouts, left in
Saskatchewan, and no probability whatever of more being brought from Russia, it does not
seem that there is any real ground for fearing that they may swamp the local community.
Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the number of Doukhobors resident in Grand
Forks District is 713.
(2.) That it is objectionable that any sect living within our borders should be allowed
to subordinate the laws of the Province to their own religious beliefs.
This proposition is not open to argument; it must be admitted in its fullest sense.    The
Commissioner never lost an opportunity of impressing upon the Doukhobors that the law would
have to be complied with, and that no recommendation of his could possibly contemplate an
avoidance of their obligations in this respect.
(3.) It was   objected   that   the   peculiar   marriage   ceremony,   the  fact   that   the
Community recognizes no outside authority,  and  that it refuses to register
births,   deaths,   and  marriages,   removes  from the  Province  one of our most
important  tests  of  morality,  and  must  convey the  conviction  of  improper
On this point it may be said that, while there can be no palliation of the offence of the
Doukhobors  in failing  to  observe the laws  of the land,  no evidence  was laid before the
Commissioner, nor could the Commissioner unearth any, which would sustain the suggestion
of lax morals or other improper conditions in the Community.    It is only fair to say that the
weight of evidence is all in the other direction.
(4.) It was objected that the commercial life of the Doukhobors is different from that
of our own people; that their example as citizens is not desirable;   that their
presence tends to keep out desirable settlers and to retard the development of
the country.
That their life is in every sense different from that of the surrounding community must,
be admitted, but there is no evidence that their presence in the country has tended to retard
its development or to prevent other settlers from coming in.    In fact, the evidence is all the
other way.    Witness after witness holding large areas of land declared that he regarded the
Doukhobors as desirable neighbours, because of the high-class cultivation of their lands and
their peaceable, quiet habits.    As to the effect upon land-values, while there were a few
witnesses, especially at Grand Forks, who claimed that the Doukhobor holdings tended to lower
the land-values, there were many more witnesses who thought otherwise;  and in this connection the fact must not be overlooked that in the Grand Forks District land-values have
continued to advance.    Since the sitting of this Commission, one of the largest and oldest
orchards in the district has been sold at the price set by the owner, well in advance of the. 3 Geo. 5 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. T 65
figure asked a year ago ; and at the moment of closing this Report a telegram is to hand from
Mr. Ernest Miller, M.P.P., who represents Grand Forks in the local Legislature, confirming a
statement recently made that real-estate values in Grand Forks had advanced considerably.
While this may not be due to the Doukhobors, it would certainly seem to discredit the
suggestion that their presence makes for deterioration in values.
(1.) That the Doukhobors are desirable settlers from the standpoimt of their personal
character, farming skill, devotion to agriculture, and general industry.
(2.) That this investigation has failed to establish any valid objection to them, except
their refusal to comply with the registration laws and the " Schools Act."
(3.) That there is no evidence of customs or practices of any kind detrimental to the
general well-being of the Community.
(4.) That such minor objections as have been raised should not be allowed to weigh against
their many good features, and especially against their qualifications as agriculturists.
(5.) That their refusal to comply with the registration laws and "Schools Act" is based
upon their religious beliefs and conscientious scruples, and their attitude is genuine.
(6.) That there is sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that their views will be
modified as they become better acquainted with the true character of our institutions.
(7.) That the head of the Doukhobor Community, Peter Verigin, has sufficient influence
and authority to bring about full compliance with these laws—if not at once, at any rate
within a reasonable time.
(8.) That there is reason to believe that the Doukhobors have, to some extent, been kept
in the dark as to their obligations under certain Canadian laws.
(9.) That they have imbibed the impression that as long as they did not become naturalized
British subjects they would not be called upon to obey certain laws.
(10.) That they have been taught that in coming to British Columbia and acquiring their
land by purchase from individuals, they would not be under the same obligations to obey the
laws as in Saskatchewan, where they acquired their land from the Government.
(11.) That punishment by imprisonment fails of its effect in their case, because they
regard it as persecution; and they are more inclined to this view because a spirit of distrust
has been developed in them in consequence of the persecution to which they have been subjected
for more than three hundred years.
(a.) That, having regard to the sincerity of the members of the Doukhobor Community in
their opposition to the registration laws and the "Schools Act," and bearing in mind their
strong religious views, their honesty of purpose, and their ingrained obstinacy, no drastic steps
should be taken to force their immediate compliance, but that suitable representations be made
to Peter Verigin, their head, of the determination of the Government to insist on compliance;
and, meanwhile, if it is found necessary to resort to prosecution and conviction ensues, it is
desirable that the punishment should take the form of fines rather than imprisonment, as the
imposition of fines would be more effective, and would bring the matter home to the parties
directly responsible—the leaders.
(b.) That all the conditions would appear to justify the Government in adopting a policy
of patience with the people and putting pressure on their leaders.
(c.) That, with respect to the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, a responsible
member  of the Doukhobor Community might  be appointed Sub-Registrar.     This  would
facilitate registration on the spot, and prompt communication with the Chief Registrar of the
E T 66 Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors. 1913
(d.) That, with respect to the " Public Schools Act," compliance should be insisted upon;
and in order to give the Doukhobors confidence and secure their sympathy, some working
arrangement might be made under which Russian teachers could be employed in conjunction
with Canadian teachers, and the curriculum modified so as to include only elementary subjects.
(e.) That, having regard to the very extensive and important interests represented by
the Doukhobors in this Province, it would be good policy to appoint a permanent Doukhobor
Agent on somewhat similar lines to the Indian Agents.
(_/!) That it is in the best interests of the country that the Order in Council granting
exemption from military service should be cancelled.
(g.) That it is not desirable that any more Doukhobors should be admitted to Canada,
except with the clear understanding that no exemptions of any kind will be allowed in the
matter of observance of laws.
Printed  by William II.  Cullin,  Printer to the King's  Most  Excellent  Majesty.


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