The Children of New Denver
Who we are
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) was founded as part of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement reached between the Government and Canada and the Japanese Canadian community in 1988. The agreement in part called for the establishment of what is now the Foundation, with a one-time endowment of $24 million, which would assist communities in their struggle against racism, and would serve as a resource for all Canadians. Our Vision statement indicates the CRRF is "Dedicated to bringing about a more harmonious Canada, which acknowledges its racist past, recognizes the pervasiveness of racism today, and is committed to a future in which all Canadians are treated equitably and fairly."
The CRRF is a Crown corporation operating at arm’s length from the federal government. It is also a registered charitable organization governed by a board of directors representing the provinces and territories. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation has Special NGO Consultative Status with the United Nations. Additional information on the Foundation and its work may be accessed through its website at: www.crr.ca
The CRRF’s involvement with the New Denver Survivors Committee began with a series of conversations with Mr Mike Verigin who wanted to enlist the Foundation’s assistance:
To lend the CRRF’s voice to the call on the Government of British Columbia to act on the recommendations of the Ombudsman in the Righting the Wrong report;
To help publicize the situation of the Survivors and the fact that they are aging and would appreciate some action before it is too late, and
To intercede on behalf of the Survivors with the appropriate agency of the United Nations, to bring pressure to bear on the relevant authorities to resolve the issue.
The CRRF sent letter to the Premier and the Attorney General of British Columbia urging them to begin the process of redress to the Survivors with a formal apology in the BC Legislature, as suggested by the Ombudsman. The CRRF believes that acknowledging that a wrong has been committed and offering an apology is fundamental to righting a wrong.
At a news conference in support of a call for the federal government to acknowledge government wrongdoing, apologize and offer some form of redress to the Chinese Canadians who were victims of the Head Tax and the Exclusion Act, the Foundation highlighted the situation of the Children of New Denver and publicly acknowledged the CRRF’s support for the claims of the Survivors.
The situation of the Survivors was also included in the CRRF’s briefing document submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism and Racial Discrimination prior to his Canadian fact-finding tour last September.
Purpose of the New Denver Children Documentation Project
At Mr Verigin’s suggestion, the CRRF is submitting this statement of interest in assisting the Survivors to "memorialize" their story. Such documentation would serve to clarify any doubts that may exist as to the innocence of the New Denver Children, and will also serve to educate and inform Canadians as a means of deterrent for other potential violations of human and civil rights.
The outcomes of this undertaking will include, but not be limited to, the documented answers to the following questions:
Why did this happen?
A look at the historical conditions, the decisions taken, and the reasons for the decisions that led to the confinement of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor Children in a New Denver institution in British Columbia between 1953 and 1959. The children were institutionalized because, as the Ombudsman for British Columbia puts it: "their parents had either refused to send them to public schools or were in prison."
Could this happen again?
What lessons have been learned? What changes should be made to laws and government policies to ensure that this and similar injustices do not recur?
A permanent accessible reference location.
The CRRF would establish a permanent website which will be accessible as a ready reminder of this injustice, with a view to assisting further research. The website will provide a permanent memorial in honour of the Children of New Denver, and encourage a restorative and positive historical context for the Survivors and their descendants.
The CRRF proposes two possible options in undertaking this project:
a] The CRRF will act as supervisor of a tendered process - a formal request for proposal, with the successful candidate reporting to us in the first instance.
b] The CRRF recruits and supervises the appropriate personnel on contract to fulfill the goals and requirements of a memorandum of understanding between the Committee and the CRRF.
In either case, we anticipate that this project would run from 12 -18 months. A detailed proposal with a realistic timeline and budget will be developed in consultation with the Committee. Phases of the project include:
Working with the Committee, the CRRF would undertake to gather and review all or as much information as possible which currently exists. This would include all available documentation and personal accounts
Archival research which may involve the Freedom of Information requests
Writing and editing the final comprehensive report
Final review and official publication of the report, as well as constructing the website.
As an organization that had its birth through a redress initiative, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation looks forward to the possibility of working with the Committee on this important Children of New Denver initiative. More importantly, we are particularly pleased that your commitment to having a study done indicates that there will finally be action on this issue. As we indicated at the outset, a prerequisite of moving forward has to be acknowledgement of a past injustice. Should this come to pass, we look forward to celebrating that achievement with Survivors of New Denver and the rest of Canada.
Karen R. Mock, Ph.D., C.Psych.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation