Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Reverend Apologizes to Doukhobors for Editorial Error

Yesterday I found an Editorial — Doing good the best response to the presence of evil — by Reverend David Shearman in the Owen Sound Sun Times, in which he slandered the Doukhobors with an allegation that the Canadian Doukhobors over the years were 'terrorists'.

Below is my brief initial letter to the editor followed by longer responses from Jonathan Kalmakoff and Andrei Conovaloff.

In his letter below, David Shearman immediately fully apologized for his media mishap. As writer and researcher on the Doukhobors for over a half a century, it is a encouraging to see an author take full responsibility for his actions.

This is a good example for others in the public media who need to be careful in separating facts from fiction.  When dealing with the Doukhobors, it is important to distinguish between Doukhobors as a legitimate social movement and actions of violence (such as bombings and burnings) which are not connected to the group.

In our real world, no one group is immune to violence. This applies locally, nationally and internationally. When violence occurs, we need to be careful in separating this abnormal behaviour from the group — otherwise we are liable to condemn the whole group for the actions of the few (which would then be discrimination, hijacking and fiction).

Added links February 2018

The Editor,
Owen Sound Sun News,

RE: Doing good the best response to the presence of evil, Editorial by Reverend David Shearman, Sept 12, 2011.

Dear Editor,

I would like to take issue with you over your allegation and suggestion that the Canadian Doukhobors over the years have been 'terrorists'. If you do your homework well, you will see that the burnings and bombings that took place in the interior of British Columbia was the work of individual zealots who are not Doukhobors in spirit. According to the Doukhobor movement, the moment one participates in an act of violence, he or she ceases to be a Doukhobor.

Doukhobor values are based on the philosophy of love and nonkilling. Please have a look at my book Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (2002) for details.You can also go to my website for many articles on the subject: www.spirit-wrestlers.com


  1. Jonathon J. Kalmakoff13 September 2011 at 21:32

    Dear Editor, Owen Sound Sun Times,

    I am writing to complain about the article (ID# 3294664) entitled, "Doing good the best response to the presence of evil" by David Shearman.

    As a Canadian of Doukhobor ancestry, I was deeply distressed and quite frankly disgusted to read David's reference to the Doukhobor people as a "terrorist movement" in Canada who "who burned public schools, railways bridges and dynamited power lines in the 1950s". Where did David obtain such sensational facts? What academic and journalistic standards did he follow to be able to affirm that Doukhobors – of whom some 30,000 to 50,000 live in Canada today – deserve to be branded as terrorists. Is David even aware of the difference between the overwhelming majority of Doukhobors, and the small, radical splinter-group known as the Sons of Freedom – who never numbered more than a couple of hundred members in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s?

    I am sure that your publication would never brand all members of the Islamic faith as “terrorists” just because a small splinter-cell of Islamist extremists masterminded the atrocities now referred to as 9/11, ten years ago. Most rational, reasonable Canadians today would instantly recognize this as inherently incorrect. What then, gives David Shearman the right to commit the same error and attribute terroristic qualities to an entire ethno-cultural group in Canada based on the misguided antics and depradations of a small fraction of their number who, in committing acts of violence, arguably ceased to be Doukhobors?

    David Shearman’s reference to the Doukhobors smacks of ignorance, bigotry and discrimination. It is precisely this sort of slanted media coverage, whereby whole groups are held guilty by association – that was characteristic of the so-called “yellow-journalism” of the 30’s and 40’s. What amazes me is that it is still permitted to exist in the 21st century. All the more, that it would be perpetrated by a Minister of the United Church, which is widely regarded to be one of the most liberal, open and inclusive religious institutions in the country.

    Shame on you, Owen Sound Sun Times. And shame on you, David Shearman.

    Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
    Regina, Saskatchewan

  2. Thank you for your reply to my words of last week. Frankly, I was not
    aware that they reached such a broad audience. I understood that they were
    published only in the Owen Sound Sun Times. You letter is a helpful

    First of all, let me offer my most profound and deepest apology to you, your
    forebearers and your families for my omission in my column. It was not my
    intent to insult, as you suggest.

    I accept full responsibility for the oversight. I should have added, as you
    both correctly point out, the words "Sons of Freedom sect" prior to my
    reference to the Doukhobor faith community. I got it wrong. It was my
    oversight and ignorance. Your corrective was helpful in informing me of the
    larger facts.

    Again, I take full responsibility for my omission. I fully accept your
    correction and deeply appreciate your expansion of facts. I thank you for
    reminding me that terrorism affects all of us, as you correctly say,
    including the Doukhobor community today. I trust you will agree that our
    best response to terrorism is still to do good.

    Again, please accept my deepest apologies for my omission. It is not one I
    shall repeat.



    Rev. David Shearman
    Central Westside United Church
    Owen Sound, Ontario

  3. Reverend David Shearman,
    Minister of the United Church
    Owen Sound, Ontario

    Dear Reverend Shearman,

    On my Spirit-Wrestlers Blog I have posted your response to the letters of Jon Kalmakoff and Andrei Conovaloff concerning the article that you recently wrote in the Owen Sound Sun Times paper. Also I have included my earlier letter to you as well as an Introduction to the whole article.

    Perhaps you will be so kind as to write another article to the paper stating your new learnings on the question at hand. Below is a brief statement on the Doukhobors that you may wish to use in your article.

    Best wishes,

    Koozma J. Tarasoff
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Email: kjtarasoff@gmail.com
    Historically Doukhobors arose in the 1600s initially as a religious dissident group from the Russian Orthodox Church, but through time took on the mantle of nonkilling and became a social movement. Today as part of the traditional peace group, Doukhobors have generally maintained an absolutist stance in relation to war and peace. This stems from the Spirit of Love or God in every person. Therefore, they argue, it is wrong to kill another human being.

    From their history of persecutions, the burning of guns in 1895, and their close association with the international Russian philosopher and writer Lev N. Tolstoy, Doukhobors have acquired almost genetic-like qualities of opposing the institution of militarism and war.

    Today in Canada there are some 40,000 Doukhobors scattered mostly in Western Canada, some 500 in the western USA, and about 40,000 in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Their values of peace, bridge-building, and love are important today for survival of humanity on planet earth.

  4. Thank you for your gracious response. I understand from the Sun Times editor that both letters are to be published in the newspaper in the near future. I will, as well, include a public apology for my error in my next column.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to rectify the matter.


    Rev. David Shearman
    Central Westside United Church
    Owen Sound, Ontario

  5. RE: Published error on Sept 12, 2011 in "Doing good the best response to the presence of evil" by David Shearman

    Dear Rev. Shearman and Editor:

    Doukhobors are not "terrorists"!

    You committed the error you apparently were opposing: "We demonize the different. Even the prime minister fell into that trap ..."

    For accuracy in media, you must publish a correction to your disinformation: "Canada has over the years had a number of terrorist movements including the ... the Doukhobors in B.C. who burned public schools, railways bridges and dynamited power lines in the 1950s ..."

    History shows that false sensational reporting to sell newspapers confused Doukhobors with non-Doukhobors, just as Muslim is confused with Al Qeida.

    To attract Doukhobor immigrants to Canada, they were promised communal land and no military training. When they arrived these and other promises were broken, similar to the way treaties with First Nations have been broken and Hutterites were fooled.

    The governement lies caused a group to divide from Doukhobors and march in religious protest. Many wanted to return home to Russia, but were denied. By the 1940s the splinter group called themselves "Sons of Freedom". Meanwhile, the actual Doukhboors divided into two major groups: "Independents" who reluctantly complied with most government laws to register land, marriage, etc. and mostly remained in central Canada; and "Communal" who collectively bought land in BC and were too industrious and self sufficient, which generated predjudice.

    Most of the Sons of Freedom also lived near the Communal Doukhobors, hence the confusion by those afar. Historically, the small Kootennay newspapers have been the most accurate in reporting compared to the rest of Canada.

    Today the religious sect of "Sons of Freedom" is extinct. Most of the descendants have assimilated, and a few have joined Doukhobor organizations in good standing. This is the news you need to report: "There are no more Freedomites."

    A small number of original "Freedomites", some with brain disorders,
    were firmly committed to religious beliefs about complete freedom between man and government, nonkilling of humans or animals, conservation of natural resources, living off the land, seperation of religion from governemnt. These beliefs clashed with Canadian law so they protested for freedoms promised. They were aided by racists Canadians and/or government workers to protest with dynamite in addition to their passive methods. Those who were most delusional, were easy to aggitate.

    The radical Freedomites were mostly a terror to Doukhobors who suffered from the shame of themselves mistakenly being called nudists, arsonists, and bombers. A little known fact is that Sons of Freedom never hurt people, who are vessels of God. The media confusion mostly harmed the honest, hardworking "Spiritual Christian" Doukhobors who had nothing to do with the Freedomites.

    In nearly all media reports, especially those in competition for market share, or far from the Kootennays, like Eastern Canada, the terms "Sons of Freedom" and "Doukhobor" were and are still mistakenly used as synonyms. Stop!

    Your profession is at fault for fooling itself with sloppy journalism. Please correct this error!

    -- Andrei Conovaloff, Sun City, Arizona USA