The despicable crime of nudity
The sons of freedom sect represent the traditional ascetic wing of the Doukobor community
in Canada who rejected accommodation with the state and sought to live according to the
old ways in isolation from the rest of the Canadian society.
May 1 1932 arrested nude paraders from the sons of freedom sect of the doukbor
community in BC and subsequent arrests later. By mid June, 600 adult protesters had been
arrested charged with and convicted of public nudity and sentenced to the maximum
penalty of three years in jail
The freedomite children many of whom had been taken into custody were removed from
their homes and put into orphanages industrial school or fosterage at the coast and wanted
to resocialize them to Canadian ways.
Nudity is an old form of both religious expression and protest against civic authority.
Ranters systematically proclaimed the right of natural man to behave naturally. In word and
deed some of them deliberately flouted the inhibitions which the Puritan ethic was
imposing. Millenarian groups from Ranter and quaker meets practiced nudity for
theological conviction and community solidarity.
Doukhobors came to Canada in 1899 descendents of a group that had broken away from the
Russian orthodox church in the 17 century and practiced pacifism and having little or no
respect for ecclesiastic or secular authority and consequently had perseculars and exile into
Doukobor theology because god is immanent in every human being mutual respect and
cooperation should be the guide principle of life. They developed a tradition of strong
authoritarian and hereditary leadership and invested the leader with semidevine qualities.
This was to provide the group with the direction to resist pressure from external forces.
In the early summer of 1903 a group of radicals marched in the nude on a proselytizing
mission among the doukhobor villages in the vicinity of Yorkton Saskatchewan. One of them
alex makhortov described their nakedness as a return to the simplicity. Some community
members including verigin were irked by this behavior and chastised the marchers. On
verigin’s orders they seized the women and children but failed to induce the male marchers
to call of their pilgrimage. As the men approached the outshiks of Yorkton at this point fully
clothes the rcmp stopped them and ordered them back to their villages. They stripped and
proceeded into the town where several residents forcibly sought to dress them. For their
pains the pilgrims were arrested and spent three months in the regina jail. The experience
of being arrested and confined fed into the persecution complex that most doukhobors felt
and that the radicals thrived on.
The pilgrims marching in the nude was a way of symbolizing humankind’s community with
nature and the animals and a return to the simplicity of traditional doukhobor life. When
the zealots began to appreciate the extreme reaction their conduct caused among the police
and non-doukhobor residents realized this challenged authorities (ongoing for 2 decades).
Authorities halted occasional prosecutions or committal of the individual to lunatic asylums.
In the 1920s charging doukhobor parents with breaches of the school act in early in 1923
upon their failure to pay fines enforcing the community regulations act by sending squads
of BC provincial police onto doukhobor land to seize goods. In april resulting tension the
zealots re-emerged and showed their resentment by displays of public nudity an attempted
school burning and intrusion into school classes in the grand forks region.
Thus when Verigin advocated compliance with school attendance laws they understood his
real desire was that children should be kept at home and educational institutions destroyed.