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Migration of the Sons of Freedom (Lower Mainland) Commeree, David Lee

Abstract

The Sons of Freedom Doukhobors have been of great concern to the Government of Canada and the people and Government of British Columbia for many years. They have gained notoriety in recent years because of protests against the Canadian and British Columbia Governments by the use of treks, arson, dynamiting, nudism, opposition to schools, taxes, and forms of registration. Since 1925 there have been more than 900 acts of violence and terrorism attributed to the Sons of Freedom. There have been convictions in approximately 10 percent of the cases. Proposed relocation in British Columbia has not occured because of protests from the proposed areas. Many countries have been approached for possible migration but none will accept the Sons of Freedom. In 1961-1962 there were over 100 acts of terrorism and arson which led to the imprisonment of 95 Sons of Freedom. There are many conflicting issues on the subject of terrorism. Most of it has to do with inter-sect conflict with one group blaming the others of siding with the government in an attempt to destroy the sect and assimilate it into the Canadian way of life. Out of fear of death and destruction the marchers burned their homes and vowed that their destination would be the gates of Mountain Prison, a special prison established for Sons of Freedom offenders. The trek was designed as a protest to draw public attention to themselves and force the government into making an impartial investigation behind the imprisonment of their sons, husbands, and brothers. The trek began on September 2, 1962 and ended on August 21, 1963. This migration is significant in-so-far as it brought the Sons of Freedom out of relative isolation in the Kootenays and exposed them, for a period of time still to be determined, to the heavily populated area of Vancouver and the lower mainland of British Columbia. The present migration is possibly the most significant event in recent Doukhobor history as it offers the first hope for possible integration or at least a better understanding between the Sons of Freedom and the larger Canadian Community. This study records the facts and details of the migration and the reciprocal impact between the Sons of Freedom and the community of Agassiz. Information was received from interviews with the Freedomite spokesman, people in the community, newspaper and magazine articles and books written about the Doukhobors. The entire study is divided into four sections done by four students in the School of Social Work. The first section is the movement of the migration from the Kootenays into the community of Hope. The second is the movement of the migration from the community of Hope to the city of Vancouver. The third part focuses upon the social welfare aspects and implications of the migration. The fourth section is the movement of the migration from the city of Vancouver to the gates of Mountain Prison in the Municipality of Kent. It is with this later phase of the migration that this section of the study is concerned. The Freedomites failed in their objective to gain an impartial investigation for the prisoners. They did however gain the objective of being with the men and share their suffering with them. The Freedomites displayed their usual capacity to adjust to any situation by making and subsisting in their makeshift encampment. They have caused very little trouble outside of "squatting" on municipal land. The Freedomites are keeping their usual detachment from the community. The community is rather passive in regard to the Freedomites. The sect is very uncertain in regard to the future as they have no place to go and no money or resourses. The Freedomites should be encouraged to remain in the lower mainland where improved community relationships and better understanding are possible.

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