Friday, 22 November 2019

‘Saskatchewan Doukhobors’ documentary shown in Ottawa

Some 80 people attended the movie ‘We’ve Concluded Our Assembly: The Saskatchewan Doukhobors’ at the historic Mayfair Theatre on November 10, 2019, in Old Ottawa South. The 90-minute documentary was followed by a discussion led by producer-organizer Ryan Androsoff with Spirit Wrestler Productions.

Mayfair Theatre markee.                        Ryan Androsoff.

Available for sale were DVDs of the film (90 minutes), CD recordings of the Saskatchewan Doukhobor Prayer Service (42 minutes, Russian and English); and a booklet 'Song Lyrics and Credits' (Russian, transliterated Russian, English) with a list of financial contributors and acknowledgements of participants. All can be bought online and at the gift shop of the Saskatoon Western Development Museum and the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar, BC. Donate; the Project is $20,000 short of breaking even.

In 2016, Ryan Androsoff initiated the ambitious Saskatchewan Doukhobor Living Book Project ‘with the mission of preserving the oral history and spiritual traditions of the Saskatchewan Doukhobor community for future generations’ as a soundscape, and to ‘start a conversation about the future of Doukhoborism for generations to come.’

This Project is specifically about ‘Independent Doukhobors’ in Saskatchewan, who comprise about one-fourth of all Canadian Doukhobors, and are partly organized as the Doukhobor Cultural Society of Saskatchewan (DCSS). Most descendants of Community Doukhobors in British Columbia are not the focus.

This was my third viewing of the entire project. As soon as it was available, Ryan mailed me the DVD, CD and booklet to review.

The documentary film opens with a typical Sunday gathering (called sobranie in Russian) of Independent Doukhobors in Saskatchewan. A traditional prayer service was performed by 8 men and 20 women (28 singers) who recited and sung Doukhobor psalms in Russian (translations provided).

The location was the Blaine Lake Doukhobor Community Home (which in my opinion is erroneously called the Doukhobor Prayer Home) located 80 km (50 miles) north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Blaine Lake is one of the 5 remaining active Independent Doukhobor meeting halls in Saskatchewan.

Inter-weaved throughout the 90 minutes were interviews of 30 men and women from ages 8 to 95, historic images, maps, and video clips of Doukhobor events in Saskatchewan (like the annual Doukhobor Peace Day under a tent with community picnic outdoors).

A total of 42 participated, 12 members of the choir were not interviewed. About a third are closely related family.

William Kanigan spoke with pride about one of his two sons who turned down a lucrative military contract because it would have contradicted with his heritage roots.

I enjoyed the freshness of Jonathan Kalmakoff's daughters, Katie and Emily, who told stories learned from their father, a Doukhobor genealogist and historian. Hundreds of articles, charts and maps are on his Doukhobor Genealogy Website.

The documentary ended at the sobranie with the hymn (in Russian and English): 'We've Concluded Our Assembly'. Credits followed.

Themes covered:
After the film, questions were asked about the Doukhobor migration to Canada beginning in 1899, if there was a Doukhobor meeting in Ottawa [No], about singing, and the transliteration of Russian to English.

At the end of the Question period, I thanked the producer and made the following comments:
This is a beautiful contribution to the cultural treasure of Doukhobors in Saskatchewan. The film will be remembered by children and grandchildren for years to come. They will recall that their ancestors believed in the Spirit of God within each person (based on a deep philosophy of love, truth, hospitality, and humanity), that peace is the way to a sustained future on Planet Earth. Nonviolence or nonkilling is central. Also they will remember that the collective style of life gave their ancestors strength to survive. And this attitude will likely prevail and give the new generation strength to carry on their mission into the future.

Ryan Androsoff and his team are to be greatly applauded for their efforts in creating this documentary film. Fundraising was a big challenge met by Doukhobors and others. The team interviewed 30 people who said many good things. The inclusion of several young people in the interviews is an acknowledgement that the new generation expects a voice with new changes. And the intent of the film was correct — ‘to help start a conversation about the future of Doukhoborism for generations to come.'
Topics not covered about the Doukhobor Movement in Saskatchewan
  • The real contribution of Doukhobor settlers to Saskatchewan and Canada. See my book: Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living, 2002; and search for major sources on Doukhobor pioneers in the Public Archives of Saskatchewan found on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan. Also check for ‘Saskatchewan’ articles on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website.
  • The marvelous Doukhobor bread-baking project at the Saskatoon Exhibition annually since 1955. This is a national and international door-opener on the Doukhobors.
  • The inspiring peace manifestations organized by Doukhobors, like attorney Peter G. Makaroff in the 1960s, and others — an inspiration for future generations in helping save our civilization from destruction.
  • The unique contributions of Saskatchewan Doukhobor journals of The Inquirer, The Dove, and The Doukhobor Sheaf to alternative media.
  • Classes on Doukhobor history and culture are currently taught at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon by Dr. Veronika Makarova. Also Dr. Ashleigh Androsoff teaches history courses which includes Doukhobor pioneers.


In 2016, I helped Ryan promote this project on Ottawa radio (Independent Doukhobor Project on Radio, July 20, 2016), and continued to help announce the project four more times on my website (1 Aug. 2016, 28 Oct. 2017, 20 May 2019, 27June 2019).

For over two years money was raised (crowdfunding, donors), the choir rehearsed, film and audio crews hired, and hours spent recording the meeting service, psalm singing, and interviews with many people, including me. Today, the project is about $20,000 short of covering all costs.

Donors from around the world and across Canada.
Click here to see world donor map.
Click on map pins (blue markers) to see donors names.

Dr. Ashleigh Androsoff helped with research, scripts and interviews. She is a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan, and Ryan’s 3rd cousin. See her 2011 doctoral dissertation: 'Spirit Wrestling: Identity Conflict and the Canadian “Doukhobor Problem,” 1899-1999'.

The project has cost about $57,000 to produce, of which $27,000 has been paid by grants and donors around the world. $20,000 remains to be paid. Please donate.

Ryan has promoted the project on TV, radio and newspapers, all documented on his website and Facebook.

Doukhobor soundscape at the Western Development Museum, Saskatoon.
Each singer had a microphone, and 4 video cameras recorded simultaneously.
For the soundscape, each singer is played on a speaker on a pole at that
singer's position in the choir. Walk through this virtual sobranie.
Ryan said it is "... an immersive experience, like you were there."

Over 200 people attended the project launch on June 28, 2019, at the Western Development Museum (WDM) in Saskatoon, with a dazzling walk-through multimedia soundscape and exhibit that continued through October 20, 2019. The WDM has featured local Doukhobor history in the past, but this was the largest exhibit.

On June 29, 2019, the film was shown at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, followed by a discussion.

DVD, CD and booklet available online from the gift shop of the Saskatoon Western Development Museum and the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar, BC.


Wednesday, 6 November 2019

A Quaker Summary of Fighting

Book review.
  • Are you worried about increasing hate crimes?
  • Does it feel like our world is becoming more divided?
  • Do you care about peace?
In 2017 the Peace Program Coordinator and Communications Coordinator for the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) proposed to answer these questions scientifically by conducting a peace literature review and bibliography. He originally planned to compile a 50-page report to summarize:
  • What does science reveal about achieving interpersonal peace, avoiding conflict and hatred?
  • Do we really need to fight?
The short project continued for 2 years, and grew to 327 pages. To include as much as possible into the book, the font size was reduced, yet much had to be omitted. Perhaps a second volume will be published to compile the rest of their research.

Matthew Legge. Are We Done Fighting? Building Understanding in a World of Hate and Division (New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, 2019): 327 pp. Copyright by Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC, Facebook).

I read the book with much interest and then attended a book launch by the author on October 23th, 2019 at the Friends’ Meeting House, Ottawa, Ontario. Some 30 people attended. A question-answer period followed.

The event was audio recorded by Ken ‘Kensky’ Billings, and posted for you on pCloud, linked from his Digileak Canada website:
Matthew Legge (pronounced: ‘Le-ZHAY’) has been on a book tour across Canada, speaking on radio, at universities, bookstores, and Friends Meeting Houses; and teaching a few workshops. See schedule at bottom of This is his first presentation fully recorded and posted online.

My Review

This book is a 2-year cooperative effort of many people: the author Matthew Legge — an anthropology graduate from the University of Toronto — and his staff at the Quaker Centre in Toronto.

Matthew emailed to me:
‘The book has about 750 end notes that made it into the final copy. I can't say how many hundreds of books and studies I read, many hundreds did not make it into the book. I didn't do 100% of the research myself. 2 other staff and volunteers did parts and sent me things.’
The book is mostly a literature review of many sources related to avoiding violence — 'Evidence and techniques you can use right now'. The research team examined publications in psychology, anthropology and sociology of peace, mostly focusing on cultural ‘interpersonal peace issues’, not inter-government politics.

The author presents many tips for avoiding personal conflict and misunderstandings in daily living, but little about preventing WW3. The intent was to examine what is known about ‘hate and division’ in society. A very challenging aspect of war prevention!

In 24 short chapters, each ending with helpful tips, the author attempts to reach people with different educational, political, religious and cultural backgrounds. The result is a comprehensive text with many insights into the fundamental issues of hate and division, without a guarantee of what will work or not work. Although very useful as an academic study, in my opinion it fails to be a practical guide to action.


Gems I found especially useful and noteworthy:
  1. Equality is a useful ingredient in respecting people and countries. Trying to be overly superior to others will not lead us to a peaceful world. We need to acknowledge that we are all part of one world community and need to work together to survive.
  2. The understanding of ‘power over’ and ‘power-from-within’ are useful concepts in avoiding exploitation and violence (pages 23-24). Working together for a ‘win-win’ outcome would also help. 
  3. ‘....The peace virus can demand patience and perseverance, and the way we live it out makes a difference to the results we get’ (page 49). Peace virus is transmitted to children through modelling (page 126). Parents and teachers, please take note and be a model for living.
  4. The ‘creative power of silence’ can be used to begin a meeting (page 44), as is done effectively in many Quaker meetings. This is mindfulness at work.
  5. Among the communication skills, try communication instead of changing someone’s beliefs by shooting down our opponent (page. 56). Recognize, acknowledge, and even respect other views. Work together on common ground issues such as climate change, disarmament, etc.
  6. Emotions are contagious — treat them with care (p. 84). We can all be manipulated towards goodness or violence. Psychologists tell us that our interdependence and malleability shapes what we think and do. Beware of psychological warfare (page 79).
  7. Effective communication involves shared values of rapport building, careful listening and observing, and seeking truths (page 94). Take note of body language. Use humour when appropriate, but avoid humiliation (page 90).
  8. War ‘is not natural’ (page 124), but is a learned behaviour. It follows that we can learn to create a peaceful world.
  9. There is a problem today with mainstream media where the bias is towards sensationalism, such as the bomb. How about seeking good news stories?
  10. Establishing Ministries of Peace around the world is ‘an intriguing idea for improving the capacity and will to engage in prevention’ (page 228).


The 327 pages of fine print, of which 52 pages are end-notes and index with even finer print makes it very difficult to read.

Though over 1,000 books and articles are listed, many important items for peacemaking familiar to me were not listed. It appears that the author and his team did not look at my website and blog which are full of valuable aides for peacemaking. I suggest adding these 7 missing items/topics.
  1. The Center for Citizen Initiatives in California has escorted groups of “citizen diplomats” (mostly Americans) to Russia since 1984 to engage in personal dialog. President Sharon Tennison has visited Russia for 35 years and rejects the war propaganda. “Misunderstandings, fallacious accusations, flare ups and demonizing ... we see the need and possibility for changing this situation. When real people in large numbers get involved, amazing things begin to happen. Join us!” Next trip: June 2020.
  2. In June 1895 my ancestors burnt their guns as a public resolve to get rid of wars. The war / peace issue is very much part of the Doukhobor movement, and I continue to be part of that movement to create a world without wars. Since the 1950s, I have been working steadily on a study of Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors with connections to the wider peace movement. A dozen books have been published and countless articles are in print and many more are steadily being produced in my Spirit-Wrestlers website and blog.
  3. 'A Study of Russian Organizations in the Greater Vancouver Area', 1963, my MA thesis in anthropology and sociology. During the first Cold War, I attended the University of British Columbia and studied the issues of what brings people together and what splits them apart. I found that both hot and cold wars split societies apart and cause undue suffering to humanity. If   we are to achieve a sustainable nonkilling society, this means we urgently need to get rid of the ‘scourge of war’ and make war a crime against humanity!
  4. ‘Opening Doors For Survival: A Handbook on Soviet-West Initiatives’, 1986. I produced this practical manuscript which was expanded and published in very limited numbers in 1991 by Peace Train Foundation in Ottawa, Canada as Discovering Soviet-West Cooperation. A Handbook on Soviet-West Bridge-Building Initiatives. The insights into peace-making are as valid today as they were in the 1980s.
  5. 'Doukhobor — Quaker Connections : Talk with Young Friends in Ottawa', December 6, 2009 Presentation Outline, Comments (updated 2019). Includes useful suggestions of what young Friends can do to make a contribution to society. The article also includes the story of effective peace manifestations  in Western Canada in the 1960s involving Doukhobors, Quakers, Mennonites, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and other groups. 
  6. Dr. Glenn D. Paige’s book Nonkilling Global Political Science, (2002), advanced the thesis that it is possible for humans to stop killing each other. The thesis supports the conclusion of the World Report on Violence and Health (Geneva, 2002) that human violence is a ‘preventable disease’. In November 2007, Dr. Page organized the First Global Nonkilling Leadership Forum, Hawaii, at which I presented my paper: ‘Tolstoy and the Doukhobors’. Wisdom people from around the world united to create a Nonkilling Society. The forum launched the Centre for Global Nonkilling ‘to promote change for a killing-free society’. While killing is deeply entrenched in world culture, it is not universal. Nonkilling is a new paradigm for a brave new world. The wider peace community should take note.
  7. 150 Canadian Stories for Peace — An Anthology, 2017. One of my contributions here was 'Opening Doors for Survival during the Cold War' (pages 101-102). In 1984-1985 I held 17 living room discussions on East-West bridge-building. My article concludes: ’With fake news in today’s Cold War world, are we not repeating again the dangerous lies about our northern Russian neighbours and others? When will we ever learn?’

Contact the author Matthew Legge at Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC, Quakers), 60 Lowther Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5R 1C7, Canada. Phone: 416-920-5213 Web: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: @CFSCQuakers. Get a free chapter of CFSC's book at:

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