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Terrorist acts in the 1950s

The Okanagan Valley has seen its fair share of crime over the years, but one of the more violent chapters in its history was in the late 1950s.

BC newspapers during that period were filled with stories of terrorist acts thought to be committed by the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors. 

Starting in the 1920s, that sect of Doukhobors fought for peace with bombs and arson and by taking part in defiant naked public marches. Their targets were schools, government buildings and other sects.

In the Okanagan, the year of 1958 was a particularly volatile period.

According to stories in the Penticton Herald, provided by the Penticton Museum, and The Columbian in New Westminster on Aug. 14, that year, terrorists struck again on three fronts in the troubled valley.

Bombs exploded in Oliver, Osoyoos and Vernon, with post offices the targets in the South Okanagan. A business building was also damaged in Vernon.

The most damage was at the Osoyoos post office, where the blast around 3:15 a.m., tore out a large section of the front wall between the main door and the night door on the south side of the building facing the main street.

Around 45 minutes later, a time-bomb placed in the outdoor letter drop at the Oliver post office blew a hole in the floor, causing extensive damage to the interior of the building.

At the same time as the Oliver blast, the Vernon building was shaken by an explosion. Doors in the building, situated near the CPR-CNR station, were blown open and windows shattered.

No one was hurt in any of the explosions.

They also took place one day before five young Freedomites were due to be committed for trial on charges of conspiring to cause explosions.

Their arrests followed exhaustive RCMP investigations of previous explosions in the Okanagan late in June.

Then on Aug. 18, police believed they had uncovered an illicit bomb factory in the hills near Kelowna as the result of a premature explosion in which one member of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor sect was killed and another severely injured.

The body of Philip Pereveresoff of Winlaw, a known member of the Sons of Freedom, was thrown about 20 feet from where he was making the bomb on a lonely mountain road near McKinley's Landing, eight miles north of Kelowna.

Police said they established at the time that the bomb actually went off a few hours before the bombs exploded in post offices in Oliver and Osoyoos and the building in Vernon. That explosion ended the attempt to make more bombs to be used in Kelowna that same night.

The unrest continued into later decades. In 1962, protesting the arrest and jailing of many of their supporters for arson and bombing, Freedomites from the southeastern BC town of Krestova trekked into Vancouver to raise public awareness of their situation. As a result of human rights-based concern about their treatment by government, the BC Civil Liberties Association is launched.

In the 1980s, representatives of various Doukhobor groups and different government departments and police came together for a collective airing of grievances and long unsettled frustrations.

The Doukhobors, who originally came to Canada to escape religious persecution in Russia, are today active pacifists, who aspire to preserve their traditional values.

 

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