New Designation Recognizes the National Historic Significance of the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan

For Immediate Release – December 10, 2006

The Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan have been recognized for their national historic significance to Canada. The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, has announced their addition to Canada’s family of national historic sites, people and events.

Set amidst rolling farmland in eastern Saskatchewan, the community of Veregin was established in 1904 and retained its central role in Doukhobor society until 1931 when spiritual and administrative headquarters were relocated to British Columbia. Its subsequent decline marked the end of the first phase of Doukhobor settlement. The original Veregin settlement – of which the prayer home, machine shed, grain elevator and foundations of the old store survive – was the administrative, distribution and spiritual centre for the region during the first period of Doukhobor settlement in Canada.

Prayer home and residence of Peter V. Verigin.  Photograph by Lorraine Brecht. 

The group of four original buildings designated as national historic sites embody the founding and establishment of Veregin. The spectacular prayer home reflects the settlement’s importance to the Doukhobors as a religious and cultural centre, as well as the authority and the vision of the leader of the Doukhobors, Peter V. Verigin. Constructed in 1917 as the spiritual meeting place of the community and Verigin’s personal residence, this finely-crafted wooden building with its two-storey wrap-around veranda and elaborate metal work was inspired by 19th-century Doukhobor architectural traditions in Russia. The vast open site surrounding the house accommodated large gatherings drawn from Doukhobor colonies throughout Saskatchewan, who assembled to hear the words of their leader as he addressed them from the second floor balcony. Serving for many years as the social, cultural and spiritual centre of Doukhobor life in Saskatchewan, this building remains highly significant as a major architectural landmark and for its ongoing role as a prayer home and museum of Doukhobor history. Two other original buildings, the machine shed and the grain elevator, are fundamental to understanding the history of the Veregin Doukhobor community. The foundations of the old store offer further insights into the settlement’s early role as an important distribution centre and into the communal economy of the Doukhobors.

The ongoing significance of Veregin to the Doukhobor people is indicated by the fact that it was chosen as the site to celebrate the 60th, 75th and 100th anniversaries of their arrival in Canada. The Doukhobor experience in Canada yields insight into Christian communitarian spirit on the western frontier, and represents a remarkable episode in Canadian immigration history. Nowhere is this experience better revealed than at Veregin.

The designations were made by Minister Ambrose on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC). Parks Canada and the HSMBC will work with the community and the National Heritage Doukhobor Village to plan the future placement of commemorative plaques at locations linked to the important contributions made by the designated places.

“These national historic sites are places of profound importance to Canadians.” said Minister Ambrose in a Parks Canada media release. “They bear witness to this nation’s defining moments and illustrate its human creativity and cultural traditions. Each national historic site tells a chapter of Canada’s history and helps us understand Canada as a whole. It is why I am proud to welcome these new places of historic significance to Canada into the Parks Canada family.”

With the designation of these sites, Canada’s system of national historic sites now includes 925 national historic sites, 598 national historic persons and 375 national historic events. The majority of national historic sites are owned and operated by private individuals, not-for-profit groups and corporations. Parks Canada protects and presents 154 of these special places on behalf of Canadians.

For additional information or inquiries about the designation of the Doukhobor buildings at Veregin, Saskatchewan as national historic sites, contact Parks Canada – National Historic Sites of Canada.