Monday, 21 May 2012

65th Annual Doukhobor Youth Festival

The Castlegar district of British Columbia was the site of the 65th Annual Union of Youth Doukhobor Youth Festival on May 19-20, 2012. On Saturday night a full house of over 1,000 people came out to watch a multicultural program of singing, music, and speeches at the Brilliant Cultural Centre — the largest cultural venue in the area. The local paper briefly reported on this outstanding event, with links to images of the Festival. Monday, May 21st was celebrated with a sports day.

Among the many messages sent to the Festival was that by Koozma J. Tarasoff and his wife Kristina Kristova from Ottawa, Ontario. Here is their message:

Dear Friends:

In celebrating the youth through the ages, let’s remember our ancestors, their youth, and our historic roots. When they came in 1899 from Russia to Canada, many of them were young in age and strong in spirit. They continued to live with the fundamental Doukhobor values: nonkilling, kindness, love and compassion.

In 1868, the year after Confederation, the Militia Act was amended significantly. It now limited exemption to specific religious groups (Quakers, Mennonites and Tunkers) and others of "any religious denomination, otherwise subject to military duty, but who, from the doctrines of his religion is adverse to bearing arms and refused military service."  The exemption was "upon such conditions and under such regulations, as the Governor-in-Council may from time to time prescribe." Members of the named religious groups had to provide certificates of membership. This legislation limited conscientious objection to a religious basis and made it subject to conditions or regulations set by cabinet. (A Short History of Conscientious Objection in Canada)

In December 6, 1898, the Doukhobors were added to a similar legislation of an Order-in-Council. This was a crucial factor for them to emigrate to Canada. The exemption from military service by these traditional peace groups was a collective expression that war and killing are wrong. If the new Order-in-Council was not passed in 1898, it is unlikely that our ancestors would have come to Canada and this Festival would not take place. Thanks to the precedent set by earlier Conscientious Objectors and the cooperation of the Canadian Government, we today are able to enrich the Canadian society with ideas and actions of nonkilling peace.

Some of the COs who refused to participate in the US-Canada War settled in the town of Stouffville near Toronto. Their descendants in early May of this year asked their Conservative MP to ‘tone down’ a June event scheduled as a celebration to the Bicentennial of the war of 1812. They said ‘it does not accurately reflect the history of the town, which was founded by Mennonites who objected to war’.  The spending by the current government of $30 million in parades, displays, and reenactments of the battles is an attempt to raise the profile of militarism and military history. (War of 1812 celebrations an 'affront' to Ontario town's pacifist roots, The Globe and Mail, Jun. 18 2012.)

As people of conscience, we ought to literally join hands with brothers and sisters of conscience and with one voice call for the building of a culture of peace in Canada and abroad. Let us give hope to our youth — to our children, and our grandchildren. Let this be a message to Canadian Parliamentarians to return to a sane domestic and foreign policy where might is no longer right, where love and nonkilling is the path for Canadians and humanity around the world.

We have to teach our children, our youth, the beauty of singing, and singing will teach them the beauty of life with values such as nonkilling, kindness and compassion.

We wish you a joyful  and memorable 65th Annual Youth Festival.

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