Community programs, research, education, wellness and mental-health supports are part of a $10-million compensation package announced to provide lasting recognition of historical wrongs committed by the Province of B.C. against the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor and their families.

Attorney General Niki Sharma announced the package, on behalf of Premier David Eby, at an event held in Castlegar as part of a formal apology to the community. She was joined by Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West; Brittny Anderson, MLA for Nelson-Creston; and Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen. The Attorney General will also attend a community event in Grand Forks on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Premier Eby will also deliver the apology in the legislature on Feb. 27, 2024.

“After many years of unrest and troubled relations, the Province forcibly removed children from their homes and communities, leaving parents to visit kids through chain link fences,” said Premier Eby. “Courts would not let this happen today, and it should not have happened then. There is no more sacred a relationship than parent and child, and that relationship was broken for a whole community, resulting in harms that have echoed for generations. Today, we acknowledge the pain experienced by Sons of Freedom Doukhobor children and families. We will be offering an official apology on behalf of the Province of British Columbia later this month.”

After being persecuted in Russia, the Doukhobors fled to Canada in 1899, with many settling in the Kootenay Boundary region in B.C. During the first half of the 20th century, the Province targeted the Sons of Freedom, a group within the Doukhobor community, with fines and seizure of property for acts of civil disobedience, such as missing school and protesting nude. In addition to imprisoning adults between 1953 and 1959, hundreds of children from the Sons of Freedom were forcibly removed from their families and placed in institutions.

“We know this apology and recognition of past actions is long overdue,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. “An apology is not enough to undo the trauma that the Sons of Freedom and their families endured, but we hope it can offer some relief for those who have carried this burden for so long. Our government is committed to accountability and transparency, to ensure that such harm never happens here again.”

The $10-million initiative is a result of engagement with the community and will include funding to:

  • preserve and promote the community’s cultural heritage and historic sites;

  • support educational and cultural programs;

  • conduct research and archive vital documents and oral histories; and

  • expand access to mental-health services and wellness programs.

These initiatives aim to preserve the community's history and experiences, and to foster a deeper understanding of the impact that historical injustices can have on survivors.


Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West 

“The apology given today by the Government of B.C. to the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor community has been long delayed and it is important that it has occurred. It is important for the survivors and their families to hear those words — ‘We are sorry’ — and critical for all of us as a province to acknowledge when harm has been done and to apologize for it. Through their example of toil and peaceful life, the community has shown great patience, and we hope this apology brings some peace to their lives.”

Brittny Anderson, MLA for Nelson-Creston 

“Nothing can take away the pain that the Sons of Freedom children, their families and communities suffered when they were removed from their homes and placed in the New Denver institution. However, I am grateful that the day has finally come that we, as government, are formally acknowledging and apologizing for the historical injustices, and that supports are being provided to help address the intergenerational trauma that has been experienced by these survivors and their families.”

Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen 

“Government actions decades ago caused enormous trauma in these communities. I deeply appreciate that Premier Eby and Attorney General Sharma recognize the importance of acknowledging these historic wrongs, and that they are formally apologizing for the harms done. The Sons of Freedom have been waiting 70 years for this and I hope these actions offer some solace and comfort to all those directly and indirectly impacted.”

A backgrounder follows.


Government of B.C.’s official apology to Sons of Freedom Doukhobor

British Columbia honours the diversity and contributions of all communities of this province, and is committed to a society that is fair and just for all. We recognize and acknowledge that in our history too many have suffered injustices that have negatively impacted their lives. This includes members of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor community.

British Columbia has benefited from the efforts and generosity of the Doukhobor people who settled in the Kootenay Boundary region of our province. The Doukhobors arrived in Canada in 1899, after enduring persecution in Russia. Although they were newcomers whose beliefs and customs were different from those of their neighbours, they managed, along with their neighbours, to build a flourishing community. We recognize with thanks the many contributions Doukhobor Canadians have made in building British Columbia.

In the first half of the 20th century, the provincial government levied fines against the Sons of Freedom community and seized communal property for community member infractions that included school absenteeism. Between 1931 and 1959, hundreds of Sons of Freedom people were convicted and handed sentences up to three years. Along with those convicted, hundreds of their children were placed in non-ward care in various provincial institutions and facilities, such as the New Denver school, by the Province of British Columbia.

Between 1953 and 1959, all Sons of Freedom children who could be located were removed from their families and placed in forced-education facilities, where they were mistreated both physically and psychologically. These actions caused immense trauma and stigma, and created anxiety for the broader Doukhobor community and even to families whose children were not seized.

This is not a proud history. The Province of British Columbia recognizes the stigma and trauma experienced by the Sons of Freedom and the broader Doukhobor community. And so today, on behalf of the Province of British Columbia, we acknowledge and apologize for the past injustices that were committed by the Province of British Columbia.

Further building on this apology, the Province of British Columbia will be contributing $10 million to support legacy initiatives recommended by the Sons of Freedom community to help provide a deeper understanding of the impact of historical injustices, what is needed to prevent similar occurrences in the future and to help those impacted by these historical wrongs. In addition, funding will be allocated to provide counselling services and other wellness initiatives.

This apology and these initiatives are predicated on the hope that those impacted by these injustices are able to access the support they need to heal, and to ensure that such violations of human rights are prevented from happening ever again in this province.