Monday, 9 February 2015

Q64: Explain Doukhobor Voting Rights

From: Tom Kanigan, Ottawa, Ontario

I am aware that Doukhobors were disenfranchised by the Wartime Elections Act of 1919, but had their franchise returned after WW 1. I understand that their voting rights were again taken away from 1934 to 1956. Can you confirm this, and explain why this happened?

Generally, I would be interested in any information you have or can point me to about the history of Doukhobor voting rights, both provincially and federally. Anything you provide would be much appreciated.



Doukhobors in Saskatchewan and Alberta were never barred from voting; but those in British Columbia (B.C.) were partially disenfranchised for 37 years — 1919 to 1956 — first in provincial and then in 1934 in federal elections, but not in municipal or school board elections.

Voting rights were also lost and regained by those jailed for felonies, like Freedomites and conscientious objectors.

In 1919, after World War I, reflecting the anti-pacifist mood of the country, British Columbia Government barred Doukhobors in its province from voting. Politicians feared that Doukhobor voting en block (being dictated by their leader) could influence an election.

There was no bar of voting for Doukhobors living in other provinces. Doukhobors in Saskatchewan had the right to vote in the Federal election because they were included in the Provincial franchise. (The federal franchise requires provincial statute.)

In 1934 the Federal Government barred Doukhobors in B.C. from voting federally. The Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, R.B. Bennett, wanted to bar all Doukhobors in Canada, but he failed to get support of Parliament because of his discriminatory intent.

There was no bar to Doukhobors anywhere from participating in municipal or school board elections, as long as they were 21 years old, a British subject, and had the necessary property qualifications.

That year some Doukhobor delegates declared they "have never given nor will they ever give their votes during elections, thereby are free from any responsibility before God or man for the acts of any government established by men." (Declaration of the "Named Doukhobors" of Canada, 1934) This declaration against voting was adopted by the USCC formed November 1938.

In 1956, all voting discrimination was lifted for all Canadian citizens.

Many immigrants in Canada were discriminated from voting — all non-whites and most Southern Europeans. For more background history and references, see Canadian Doukhobors and Voting.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this, very interesting. There is of course the other side of this issue which is the self-enforced disenfranchisement of the Doukhobors.

    My understanding is that for many years (and perhaps still in some places) amongst some Doukhobors there was an explicit or implicit prohibition on voting or participating in the formal political process. Personally I think this is inconsistent with our basic principles as Spirit Wrestlers and our communities, country and world can only beneļ¬t from more Doukhobor involvement in public life, not less!

    1. Yes. See: Declaration of the "Named Doukhobors" of Canada : proclaimed and accepted at the second convention of the authorized delegates, held at Verigin, Sask., Canada from the 29th day of July to the 7th day of August, 1934, A.D., reproduced in “Declaration of the Union of Spiritual Christians of Christ in Canada,” section 3, in Mealing, Mark, “Our People's Way: a study in Doukhobor hymnody and folklife,” thesis (Ph. D.), University of Pennsylvania, 1972, page 723.

  2. Thank you, Koozma. I found the two articles very enlightening.