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B.C. attorney general in Castlegar to apologize to the Doukhobors

Sons of Freedom children were taken from their families in 1950s
Approximately 200 Doukhobor children were apprehended and confined at a former tuberculosis sanatorium in New Denver between 1953 and 1959. (Office of the Ombudsperson BC)

British Columbia’s attorney general is set to formally apologize to members of the Doukhobor religious group who were forcibly taken from their parents more than 70 years ago.

Niki Sharma’s office says she’s in Castlegar, B.C., to apologize to members of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, who were sent as children to live in a former tuberculosis sanatorium for up to six years.

A report by B.C.’s ombudsman Jay Chalke last year said about 200 children were taken, often under the cover of darkness, because their parents opposed government rules and refused to send their children to public schools.

Chalke’s report said there may be up to 100 survivors and he called for them to receive financial compensation as well as an apology.

The Sons of Freedom were a small group within the Doukhobor community, an exiled Russian Christian group that was once known for naked protests and periodically burning down their own homes as a rejection of materialism.

Chalke’s report says mistreatment suffered by children at the former sanitorium in New Denver, B.C., in the 1950s included a ban on speaking Russian, often their only language, and restricting access to their parents.

It says the children were kept behind a chain-link fence that they had to help build.

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