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B.C. Premier Eby apologizes to Doukhobors, for wrongs that 'echoed for generations'

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VICTORIA -

British Columbia Premier David Eby has officially apologized in the Victoria legislature to members of the Doukhobor religious community, including children who were forcibly taken from their parents more than 70 years ago.

He says those children were physically and psychologically mistreated after being placed in educational facilities, including a former tuberculosis sanatorium in New Denver, in B.C.'s southern Interior.

Eby says it should never have happened and the province recognizes it caused harms that have “echoed for generations.”

He says this is why the province is allocating $10 million to “help people hurt by these historical wrongs and will help prevent similar occurrences in the future.”

That funding was announced by Attorney General Niki Sharma earlier this month.

BC Ombudsperson Jay Chalke called Eby's apology a “meaningful and essential step forward,” but says the province should also provide individual compensation to victims.

“Such compensation would allow survivors and their families to, in the premier's words, `access the support they need, however it looks' to support their healing,” he said in a statement.

In his speech Tuesday, the premier thanked the advocates from the Doukhobor community who have spoken out against the harms, adding that some of the funding will be allocated for survivor counselling and other wellness initiatives.

“Today marks a milestone in the history of our province,” Eby said. “While we cannot undo the harms of the past, we can recognize and hold up survivors while we continue our work together to ensure that such a violation of human rights, of human dignity, of families, never happens again.”

The Doukhobors were an exiled Russian Christian group that originally settled in B.C. in the early 20th century.

Hundreds of Doukhobor children were forcibly removed from their homes in the 1950s, in part because their parents opposed government rules and refused to send them to public schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024.

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