April 12, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


William Forsythe McCreary



I am not giving my own opinion, but am referring to wlmt the hon. member said. He quoted cases in Toronto and other cities throughout Canada showing that there was a very serious condition of affairs. Now, as a matter of fact, while the Doukhobors have a peculiar system of marriage, there can be found only one case of divorce among them during fifty years. The authority of that is Count Tolstoi, the authority for that is Prince Hilkoff ; the authority for that is Alexander Konshin, of Moscow, a gentleman who belongs to the Greek Church, and has no connection with the Doukhobors, who is a merchant prince of Russia, and a man of the highest standing in Russia and in Europe, a man whose word I would take at any time. The authority for that is John Bellows, of Purleigh, Essex, the leading Quaker of England. a gentleman whom I have heard went to the peace conference at the Hague, as personal representative of Her late Majesty, a man of the very highest standing in Great Britain. Surely the word of such a man should be worth more than the utterances

of some lion, gentlemen opposite and some newspapers in Canada. With regard to marriage, these Doukhobors are something like the Mennonites. They do not believe in taking out a license for marriage. They will, in time, register their marriages in their own way just as the Mennonites have done. In fact, they are something like Roman Catholics in their views in one respect, if I am to judge by the decision of Judge Archibald in the Delpit case- they look upon marriage as a sacrament, and not as a civil contract to be dealt with by the courts or civil authorities. That marriages are registered in Heaven they take literally. Shortly after they came, I had Premier Haultain, of the North-west Territories, and Hon. Mr. Bulyea, come to Winnipeg and meet the representatives of the Doukhobors. They discussed this question for four hours, and Mr. Haultain told me afterwards that there would be but little difficulty in bringing these people to our way of thinking. Why, we had difficulty with regard to others of their customs and methods-not relating to such serious matters, of course, but still involving some difficulty. For instance, there was. the way they treated their horses. The horses in Russia are a light class, and the people are in the habit of driving them rapidly and feeding them at intervals of two hours day and night. The horses they bought here were heavy draught horses, and they could not treat them in the same way. They could only be driven thirty miles a day. The Doukhobors wanted to race them. The consequence was they killed off 40 or 50 per cent of their horses by improper feeding and driving. Then, there was trouble about their wagons. They wanted the Russian wagon to be brought out, and that wagon is about three times as heavy as ours, and not at all suitable to the prairie. I told them that they had better have Canadian wagons. But there was a party of men, eight or ten of them, and some women as well, who came out here with the Doukhobors as nurses and doctors, who were more impractical than the Doukhobors themselves. They were theorists, fadists, anarchists you might call them. It was a case of the blind leading the blind. Instead of trying to persuade the Doukhobors that they were wrong, and leading them to take up Canadian ways, they told them that they were right, and told us that we must come to the Doukhobor's ways. But I said : No, there is no use in that ; we know best what is suitable for this country. But the only way you could teach some of them was by experience. They went to a factory and ordered the material-oak-to be sawn for eighty wagons. The order was given to a man from Almonte, who keeps a mill there, in Winnipeg. They ordered the hubs, spokes, fellows, and so on, three times the size that are used in our wagons. Young Tolstoi encouraged them to get wagons
after their own pattern. But I got eight or ten of the more intelligent to buy the Chatham wagon. And when the Doukhobors, after they had got two or three of their own wagons, saw how the other teamsters could do far more work with the Canadian wagon, they threw their own wagons aside and bought ours. Prince Hilkoff had to go down and pay out of his own money $1,650 for the oak that had been sawn for these heavy wagons, and that had to be thrown away as useless. This is a simple thing, but it shows how difficult it is to overcome their prejudices. Why, they wanted to use the shorthandled axe-to chop logs with one hand. We had less difficulty in convincing them that that was wrong. No doubt in a very short time there is not a law in force in Canada but these people will cheerfully comply with. I mentioned that the greatest difficulty we had was with the people who came out with them. But thank God, I got rid of them all-all but one. That one was Mr. Bodjiansky, a wellmeaning man. but one of most peculiar ideas. About fifteen months ago, I found that correspondence was going on between him and the Southern Pacific Railway, who were anxious to get five hundred or a thousand men to engage in railway construction work in California, about eighty miles south of Santa Barbara. I learned of this correspondence, and also got a copy of the contract signed by the milling and railway company, and, with this contract, tried to stop these men at the boundary line. But, notwithstanding the boasted laws of the United States, they were allowed to pass, though they were going to the United States under contract, and though there was not $25 among one hundred and fifty of them.
Notwithstanding that I produced the contract in Russian, notwithstanding that I produced the English copy of that to the authorities at the boundary line, notwithstanding that the custom-house officer told me clearly that a case had 'been made of a breach of the Allen Labour 'law and also of the immigration law,-notwithstanding all that, so great was the influence of the Southern Pacific road at Washington that his decision was overruled, and these people were allowed to pass through. This Bodjiansky was the prime mover in all this affair. He sent his son with this crowd, he was in the first crowd that went. I told the people they would regret it. I said : If you go down there you will get a little bigger wage, more steady employment, but the land is so high that you will never be able to become the owners of your own homes. The climate will not suit you, as it is too similar to the climate that you left in Cyprus and in the Caucasus in Russia. The result was that a short time before I came here a large number of these people came back and almost kissed my feet on the platform at the station at Winnipeg. They told

me that had they followed my advice they would not have been coming back in the famished and sickly -condition in which they arrived at Winnipeg. This was all the work of this man Bodjiansky. He knew that toe was foiled, he knew that I had spoiled his game. I do not wish to say that the man was trying to get a large percentage on the people he sent away, but I have my own suspicions. However, he was foiled in his efforts, the people have all returned, and as one last gasp before be left he published -a. manifesto. But the Doukliobors did not believe him, and twenty-two names are all he could get on the manifesto. I may say that I wrote up-1 had not time to write the Doukhobors themselves-but I wrote to a young Doukhobor of the name of Michael Cacazoff, who toad been -living in Brandon. I will give you the history of this young man. He is about 23 or 24 years of age. He was anxious to get an education, and I said I would try and get him into a AVinnipeg school, but it was difficult to get employment for him. He went to Brandon and saw Mr. Fox, professor of foreign languages in the Brandon Baptist *college, who took this young man up. That was about October last. He now writes me a letter in bis own hand, in as good English, with as good penmanship as myself, or most of the members of this House, could frame a letter in.-learned in eight months, showing how that young man got along. I wrote to him telling him the injury that was being done by this manifesto, and asking whether Bodjiansky voiced the feelings of the people. Here is what Mr. Fox wrote to me on the young man's behalf :
As English instructor to Michael Cazaeoff, the Doukhobor whom you know, and knowing -that you are both personally and officially interested in the welfare of the Doukhobors, I have taken -the liberty to write to you briefly of my experience with that people during the past winter.
When I came to Brandon last October to take charge of the language department in the college here, it was suggested to me that I give Michael English lessons. Interested as I am *in foreign languages generally, and desiring to learn the Russian particularly, I took him in hand as soon as he was free to come. Ever since he has had regular appointments with me. He has been exceedingly faithful, never having missed an appointment, always coming on time and without fail, a-t the close of each lesson showing me his deep appreciation of what is being done for him. He tells me from time to time that the fact that he receives any recognition from an official such as yourself, is great encouragement to him. I assure you that your name stands high in honour among the Doukhobors. They are a grateful people.
Through Michael I have come in contact with them quite often, frequently visiting their homes. I have found them all as you described them in your last letter to Michael-clean, peace-loving and thrifty. They all unite in saying that not only do they feel satisfied with the Canadian laws generally, but also that their dreams could not picture to them anything that they would like better.
Mr. McCreary.
I have been questioning Michael regarding the Bodjiansky letters. He says they were written at the instigation of two or three disgruntled Doukhobors who are of the kind that would never be any good anywhere on this globe. Michael got this information from his father who lives in one of the villages in the same locality where Bodjiansky resides.
X toa/ve no doubt but some of the toon, gentlemen from Ontario may know Mr. Fox, the writer of this -letter. He says further :
A number of people here call the Doukhobors lazy, using as their proof, so-called, the fact that very few of them are learning English. I confess I thought at first that it was strong evidence in that direction; but now I see that their backwardness in this respect is owing to their timidity of people.
That is just the thing, the very difficulty of the whole question. They have been so down trodden by the Russian soldiery and the Cossack- authorities, their women have been so flogged and so persecuted, they have been so beaten on account of their religious beliefs and for other reasons, that to-day they are very suspicious, and It takes them a long time before they will believe that what a man says to them is true. They have been deceived so often that they will not believe a man the first time. That is one of the difficulties that has stood in the way. A school was set up at Winnipeg by a lady, or under charge of a' committee of ladles. When they first went into that school there was a large number of pictures hung around the hall. They did uot know but that these pictures represented the doctrines and rites of the Greek Church, and they began to leave. The lady did not know why the children quietly slipped away from the building and would not attend ; they would not even tell my interpreters and officers for -some time why they would not go to that school: Finally they said : These are
Creek Catholic schools, and we do noit want to go where the Greek religion is taught. We believe in our own religion. We want to come here to learn reading and writing, history and geography, -and we do not want to see these pictures hung around the walls. The consequence was that the pictures were taken down and the children went back to school. So you see, Mr. Speaker, some of the difficulties we have to encounter in dealing with these people.
As I have said, this man Bodjiansky tried, and is trying to the 'last to make trouble. There is no doubt lie feels aggrieved because be was not able to carry out bis measure for removing these people to the United States. He tried to stir up strife among them ; and I may say that since he wrote that manifesto he hawked it around the city of Winnipeg to try to get It published in the daily papers. For a long time I have known that lie was trying to get this up. Seeing he has been foiled in his efforts toe lias gone back to Siberia in Rus-

sia, and I am told by tbe Douknobors iu the North-west that they are glad to get rid of him. I may tell the hon. member that if he desires it I can bring a statement from the North-west signed by every Doukhobor that the sentiments expressed by Boujiansky are not the sentiments of the Doukhobor people. I have hopes that in a short time, even this year, the Territorial government and the Dominion government may make certain slight amendments to the marriage laws by which these people will be able to register their marriages in a little different manner from what they do, different even from the Mennonite custom. 1 think any difficulty of that nature will be got over.
In regard to taking homesteads commun ally, that is another objection. The hon. gentleman may be surprised to know that within the last six weeks more Doukhohors have taken up individual homesteads than iu all the previous time since they came to Canada. Not only have they taken up homesteads in their own villages, but quite a number of them are breaking away from their villages and going off and taking up homesteads among Canadians. At Swan River they have asked to be excluded from the colony, to go out of the communal system and start for themselves, just after they had acquired sufficient money to buy a horse and cow to start with. Now, Mr. Speaker, there is only one argument in favour of the communal system, in favour of settling foreigners in a colony, but that argument is a good one, and that argument has prevailed throughout Canada. The fact has been mentioned in another place, in Ottawa, to the prejudice of the Doukhobors ; but it is a strange thing that even iu older Canada the Scotch Highlanders like to get together, Frenchmen like to get together, where their language is spoken, and where their religion is taught. I do not blame them. We see the same thing among many nationalities except (perhaps those from the North of Ireland, the country from which my father came. Perhaps we do not flock together quite so well, because we are a little too belligerent. But -most all nationalities like to come together and settle in colonies. The same rule prevails all over this continent. The Moravians settle together in colonies, so do the Roumanians and the Hungarians. Every one of the foreign peoples brought -to the North-west in the early days have settled in colonies. Why ? Because they were poor, aud they have got to depend upon ouo another until they are rich enough to help themselves. One man cannot buy a team of horses, i but two men together can buy one ox each and put them together ; one man may not have enough money to buy a plough, hut as they get a little richer three or four of them can buy a reaping machine. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that had that communal system prevailed a little more in '
the early days, among Anglo-Saxons, we would not have had so many Canadians leaving there to go to the Dnited States ? So with those who came from Ontario to the west with very little means. Then, as now, the implement agents had sweet mouths and oily tongues. These travelled throughout the west, and just as soon as a farmer had ten or fifteen acres of ground he was asked to buy a hinder, he was asked to buy a rake, and all the implements necessary to run a farm of ten times the size. They bought this, probably the crop failed, but the note was due, the interest on the note had accumulated, 12 per cent compounded year after year, the creditor got a judgment, the implement man came around and sold out the belongings that were not exempt under the law, he took the old machine back, and the consequence was there was that man struggling, there was no use of raising a crop next year, because it would he seized again, and the man, struggling against fate, concluded : I might as well quit, and quit they did in many cases. So many of them were quitting that the Manitoba and Territorial governments were obliged to make the very wide exemption under the law of which I spoke a few nights ago. If these farmers had done something similar to that which the Doukhohors have done, gone a little slower at first and worked a little more on the communal or co-operative plan, they would have been able to get along all right. The Doukhohors, as the Mennonites are doing now, as soon as they become possessed of sufficient means, will go into individual ownershij) to a large extent.
There is one more word that I wish to say in regard to the education of the Doukhobors. One of the difficulties that was encountered at first was, that the Doukhobors did not want to learn the English language. I asked Prince Hilkoff what he though the Doukhobors would he willing to dq in this respect, and he said that he thought about one-third of them would be willing to learn the English language at once, and that, with the balance, two-thirds, it would take some time. I asked Mr. Haul-tain, the premier of the North-west Territories, if he would be willing to provide schools for the one-third of these Doukhobors, and he said that they would be willing to provide these schools as soon as possible. As the result of the united efforts which were made by the Quakers in England, a young man, a graduate of Oxford, was sent out. He travelled amongst the Doukhobors, and is now endeavouring to secure funds for carrying on educational work. The Quakers of the United States have also contributed largely in that direction. In the I meantime there were two Canadian ladies who undertook the work. A young lady from Kingston, Miss Nellie E. Baker, and Eliza Varney, a fine old Quaker lady, who lives in Prince Edward county, came

up to tlie North-west, and started a school. They started a school in a tent which 1 loaned them. The children squatted on the grass. I would like to read a few extracts from a letter written by the young lady to me shortly before I came down here. She says :
But here were the children, all as ignorant of the English language as I of the Russian, waiting to be taught. We had not expected such a prompt response to our project. So my first experience as a teacher began under decidedly unique conditions, teacher and taught being without a single word in common. By signs and motions I got them seated in rows on the prairie grass of the tent floor-later we had plank benches-and holding up a pencil said ' one.' I could detect no apparent comprehension; then taking up another pencil said ' two,' and adding a third, 'three'; still no response, and my heart sank somewhat. However, I decided to repeat the method, and as I said ' one,' I noticed a look on a boy's face that told me he knew I was counting, and I saw him turn and speak to the others. Almost instantly they understood, and soon repeating after me, counted up to ten. Then making the figures on a large sheet of paper-that had to serve as a blackboard-they soon knew perfectly the
English numerals
All were very attentive and eager to learn. Some of these children came regularly from the village, Dtshenje, five long miles in all weathers. They came early; too. So I opened school at half-past eight daily, and when closing time came at four, I often thought I was the only tired one. So much of the teaching was of necessity oral that the six and a half hours a day for five and a half days each week I found rather trying.
At the first the school was visited by several of the older Doukhobor men, who, I apprehend, were present to satisfy themselves as to the nature and probable influence of the undertaking. Later this critical attitude gave way to a feeling of hearty approval and confidence
As to writing, which was done on slates in school and in ' scribblers ' for homework-of which seemingly they could not get too much-I must confess that it was often at least as good as my headlines. This shows that the Doukhobor has a strong eye for form, and certainly in the scrupulously artistic power in the
handling of strong colour effects
The manliness and independence of the Doukhobor character was shown when these poor villagers found that the school was entirely nonofficial, and my work wholly voluntary ; a committee of the men offered me remuneration, which, being declined, they expressed their gratitude. and told me through their spokesman, Constantine Plaxton, that they ' thanked me all
the day and all the night,'
The importance of some knowledge of English to the Doukhobors is apparent when it is shown that one who cannot understand is only able to get half wages, but apart from this there is a general desire to learn our tongue and to become Canadians. This view, formed in my visits to the villages near Good Spirit Lake, was confirmed when later I visited many villages to the south and north colony
When Mr. Barcroft came to the tent school at Good Spirit Lake, he was accompanied by M. Nicholas de Struve, the Russian consul to Canada at Montreal, and these gentlemen were good enough to express their gratification at finding in my school a ' going concern ' of considerable Mr. McCreary.
experimental importance, which, it was said, would throw practical light on the subject in hand
It does not require a very keen perception on the part of one who has had a welcome into hundreds of their homes to be assured that this is a community living up to high moral standard, and holding tenaciously to the simple tenets of Christian faith.
Tlmt is good enough evidence for me to believe, besides that which my own eyes taught me in four years, that these people are good people. At oue time I made up my mind that I would visit these people in their own homes. X was brought up in this country amongst the pioneer settlers on the Upper Ottawa, and I know what pioneer life is. I know what it is to build log houses, and X am in a position to judge as to what kind of a settler is necessary for a new country. I decided that I would not take any provisions with me, but that I would live with them as they lived. I made a trip to Swan river, over to Fort Felly, aud down to Yorkton, and slept five nights in their homes. I was .surprised' and astonished at the cleanliness of their places. 1 was surprised at the kind of log houses that they built. I have seeu very good log houses built in the early days here, and I have seen what were called first-class ' corner ' men, but I had never seen any log houses of which the corners were as neatly made, and in which the plastering was so neatly done, and on which the roofs were so well put on. I have never seen any log houses built by any Canadian builder equal to these houses. They had blended the clays used in the decoration of these bouses in such a way as to almost make you think that they were actually painted. There was another prejudice that they had at first. They would not have stoves in their houses, but they had large clay ovens, which they placed next the doors. When I said to them that they should have stoves, they at first said that they would bum out, but they quickly overcame that prejudice, and in two or three months there were a great many box stoves in use. As to their food, it is true there was no meat, but they had vegetables, onions. &e., and they made a very nice salad. They bad soup of rice and barley, which they took with bread, well baked. I found them most polite people, and the best tilings In the bouse they gave me. Their style of living was a little different from ours; they did not use the ordinary bedsteads but they had pillows made olf down and feathers which were taken out every day to be exposed to the fresh air, and in that they gave us a lesson in hygiene. I was as comfortable as I would be in a hotel. It is true that twenty or thirty occupied the same house. Their beds were arranged on platforms at the end of the wall, but they had neat curtains and bangers and you were just as private as you would be in a Pullman car. These people are most religious as regards their

food. Even in an hotel or rough boarding house, it was one of the noticeable features that they were not afraid to stand up before they partook of a meal to thank God in their own way for providing it, and after they had eaten they were not ashamed to do the same thing. I saw these people out through the west, and I say that at Yorkton, Swan River, and in other places where they are settled amongst the roughest class of men, they are thought a great deal of by 95 per cent of the people. There are a few cranks up there. There are some worse than cranks who do not want any one but themselves to go into that country. One of the greatest difficulties we had to face came from the rancher class who went there as so-called ranchers with 100 or 150 head of cattle, and they thought because they had taken up 100 acres-which a great many of them had not paid for although they had been there for fifteen years-they thought because they squatted upon that land and put up a small house and let their cattle roam over the entire prairie, that the country was sacred to themselves alone. Merchants in Yorkton told me that these so-called ranchers were not of much benefit to the country. It was true they raised these cattle, but they shipped them to the east and they did not even buy their supplies in the country, because they brought them in from eastern cities. I was told that every quarter section taken up by Galicians and Doukhobors was a source of wealth to the country and the trade had increased in such a manner that the business people saw the difference and wanted to get rid of the ranchers. I reasoned with some of these ranchers, and I said : Do you expect to tie up a half a township for the sake of your cattle V I told them : Go to Cypress Hills or to Maple Creek district for your ranching, for you have no right to say that this land which is suitable for mixed farming shall be retained for your benefit for ever, and that the Dominion government are not to get out of it what they should get out of it, because you claim that the country Is to be kept apart for men like you.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it is also said that these Doukhobors and Galicians were fed by the government. It is charged that in the first place they were brought in by the government, and then that they were fed by the government. Certain newspapers throughout the west and throughout the east too have told that lie so often that they have got to believe it themselves. They say it is peculiar of a man who is a pretty square liar that if he tells a lie often enough he gets to believe it is true. Notwithstanding that the story about the government feeding these immigrants has been denied time and time again, it has been repeated by every Conservative newspaper in the west and in the east. Why, Sir, not a single Galician or Doukhobor was ever 92
brought in by this government. They paid their own fares in good coin of the realm. It is true they were assisted by the Society of Friends, a Christian sect, one of the most Christian sects in Canada I believe; one of the most self-sacrificing religious denominations I have ever known, and I was very much surprised to hear the hon. gentleman from Lennox (Mr. Wilson) say anything disparaging to the Quakers. We have not very many Quakers in the west, but from the experience I have had in dealing with Quakers from Philadelphia, from Great Britain and from Canada, I think that if ever I should desire strongly to belong to any denomination, it would be that denomination. They are men whose religion consists in helping the needy, whose religion consists in taking out of their own pocket what they can spare and giving it to those who want it. That is a good enough religion for me. We see too little of it in our days.

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