A radical offshoot of the Doukhobors, known for nude protests, arson, and a vehement rejection of government control.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Spiritual Christian
Founded: 1920s
Ended: 1980s
Location: Kootenay and Boundary, British Columbia, Canada
Split from: Doukhobors
Other Names: Sons of Freedom, Svobodniki

The Freedomites, also known as the Sons of Freedom, were founded in the early 20th century as a radical faction within the Doukhobor community in Canada. This group distinguished itself through extreme measures to voice their dissent against government policies, societal norms, and the perceived materialism encroaching upon their way of life. Originating from the larger Doukhobor movement, which sought religious freedom and pacifism after facing persecution in Russia, the Freedomites took their beliefs a step further, incorporating public nudity, arson, and bombings as forms of protest.

Central to the Freedomites’ philosophy was a profound opposition to land ownership, public education, and the registration of vital statistics like births, deaths, and marriages. Their actions were a response to what they saw as a direct infringement of their freedoms by the Canadian government, particularly with laws that conflicted with their communal living arrangements and pacifist beliefs.

One of the most controversial aspects of their protest was their practice of nudism, intended as a symbolic return to innocence and a rejection of societal constraints. This, along with their penchant for setting fires to both their own and public property, positioned them as a significant challenge to law enforcement and the government. Their actions ranged from burning money as a denouncement of materialism to bombing railway lines, seen as symbols of the encroaching modern world they opposed.

The Canadian government’s response to the Freedomites was often harsh, culminating in the 1950s with “Operation Snatch,” where around 200 Freedomite children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in a residential school in New Denver, British Columbia, in an effort to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian culture. These actions led to allegations of abuse and a lingering sense of injustice within the community​​​​.

The Freedomites’ settlement in Krestova, British Columbia, became a focal point for the group. Here, they continued to live according to their beliefs, in stark contrast to both mainstream society and the more moderate Doukhobors. Over time, their protests and the government’s attempts to suppress their dissent caused significant strife, including imprisonment and continued legal battles over land and personal freedoms​​.

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