VICTORIA – British Columbia’s ombudsperson says he’s “deeply disappointed” the government won’t commit to compensating members of an exiled Russian religious group who were forcibly removed from their parents in the 1950s.
Jay Chalke says in a report that he’s relieved the government has committed to an apology to members of the Doukhobor community this fall, calling it a “momentous” step toward justice.
But he says he’s “saddened and surprised” that there’s no unequivocal commitment to compensation for the community members.
A statement from the Office of the Ombudsperson says Chalke’s report, “Time to Right the Wrong,” comes after recent complaints from Doukhobor survivors about government inaction.
The report says between 1953 and 1959 about 200 children were removed at government direction from parents who were members of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, a group within the community in the West Kootenays known for acts against government regulations that included naked protests.
It says that after their removal, many of the children were mistreated physically and psychologically while placed in a former tuberculosis sanatorium at New Denver, B.C., for six years.
Chalke says there may be up to 100 survivors from the group, who are now aged in their 70s or 80s.
The report says the government’s response includes the commitment to an apology, but instead of mentioning compensation the province states it is preparing a “recognition package.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2023.
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