Friday, September 21, 2012

Peter G. Makaroff — a Doukhobor for all times

The Spirit Wrestlers
September 24, 2007

Peter Makaroff
At the beginning of the 1900s, the Society of Friends (Quakers) made regular visits to the new Doukhobor colony of Petrofka* [sic: Petrovka, map] on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River not far from the present town of Blaine Lake, They spotted a bright boy and helped Peter to get a high school education, first at Philadelphia and later at the Rosthern Academy, fifty miles north of Saskatoon. He was able to get a teaching certificate from a short session at Normal School, and then with the money saved from the meager salary of a schoolteacher, he was able to put himself through the University of Saskatchewan and emerge with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1918. He was the first student of non-Anglo-Saxon parents to graduate from the University — which means that he was the first Doukhobor to go to college and become a professional man.

Within a year of completing his practice, he was pleading cases before the Supreme Court of Canada Later, in 1932, Dr J.T.M. Anderson, then Conservative premier of Saskatchewan, appointed Peter Makaroff as King's Counsel in recognition of the important part he played in helping to quell some of the rambunctious antic of the zealots. He acted as counsel to Peter P. Verigin in British Columbia, in the legal battle in which Verigin was saved from last-minute illegal deportation to his native Russia. Because of the high drama of this incident, I attracted much interest in the international press (McConnell, 1992: 95). Peter Makaroff continued to defend Peter V. Verigin throughout the years. He remained as legal council for the leader when the United State Commission Agents (in 1937) brought a $1,000,000 suit against the Community Doukhobors.

At this point, the noted celebrated judge Emmett M. Hall was asked to come down from Saskatoon to help a noted radical lawyer' Peter G. Makaroff with the defense, and he accepted gladly. 'It was obvious,' he said 'that this was a police riot. Until the police charge there wasn't the slightest evidence of wrongdoing or intended wrongdoing on the part of the strikers. Instead of doing anything about the unemployed, the government slapped them into camps, and when they boiled over a confrontation was provoked.'(2) The trials lasted well into 1936. Five accused were acquitted, 12 cases were dropped for lack of evidence and nine men were convicted and received sentences of up to 18 months, many of whom welcomed the prospect of regular meals and accommodation which they could not receive outside because of non-existent jobs. The Hall-Makaroff team helped the 'small guys' get a fair shake in our courts. They were made the victims of conditions that existed in Canada through no fault of their own.

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