Visionary Lawyer Speaks Up for Peace
Peter G. Makaroff (1894-1970) was always at his best working uphill against almost impossible odds, according to Carlyle King, his pacifist friend and English professor. Born in Kars, Russia, to a Doukhobor family, Peter came to Canada in 1899 and settled on the Canadian prairies. At that time, he could speak no English, but in less than 20 years he was recognized as one of Canada’s outstanding young lawyers. As one who inspired me and countless others to work for human justice and peace, Peter rightly deserves the title of ‘our Bertrand Russell’ as well as ‘our Socrates’.
Makaroff was fortunate to have shared in the successful fights to achieve important social advances in Canada such as universal hospitalization and Medicare insurance. He was one of the original CCF group with his revered friend, J.S. Woodsworth, its first leader, who was like himself, committed to democratic socialism and pacifism.
Makaroff served one term on the Saskatoon City Council, 1939-1940. This was the time when he literally turned the other cheek after being hit by a fellow Alderman because Peter dared to speak out against the institution of war.
Until his death in 1970, Peter Makaroff was true to his Doukhobor principles and concentrated on promoting the idea of establishing world peace through World Government. He came to believe that without a sound structure of humane enforceable international law, mankind could never hope to avoid a nuclear holocaust. He was a life-time member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Saskatoon chapter often met in his law office. Also, he served as chairman of the Saskatoon branch of the World Federalists movement.
Like Socrates, Peter challenged members of his own profession to come up with some solid legislation that could facilitate peacemaking in the world community. I attended one of these meetings in Banff, Alberta in 1965, on Law and Order in the International Community. During the question period, Peter stood up and said:
“I wasn’t going to say anything at this Conference. But after sitting here for two days, I must admit I am frankly disappointed with the discussion which was largely focused on trade relations. Such discussion makes me indignant and impatient. You should throw out all your precedents, and your law books, for they lead to naught. Instead, you should set up new approaches of international law for none exists today.
Successful as he was as a Canadian lawyer and public figure, Peter was fully bilingual in Russian and English and cherished his ties with Russian culture and the best aspects of Doukhobor heritage, which for him meant a Tolstoyan Quaker-like day-to-day moral behaviour and rejection of violence and militarism. He played a vital role in promoting and helping organize several peace projects in Western Canada, in which I was involved. His motivation was to ‘awaken mankind to the dangers of war’.
In July, 1964, he joined A.J. Muste and other peacemakers in protesting the chemical, biological, and radiological warfare tests at Suffield, Alberta.
In November, 1964, he met with 400 peacemakers at the gates of the radar base, Orcadia, Saskatchewan in a firm resolve to strive for nonviolent action, for one world, and for peace and universal brotherhood.
In June, 1965, he joined Mulford Q. Sibley, Frank H. Epp and 1500 people in a rain-soaked peace vigil near the RCAF radar base at Dana, Saskatchewan, where he presented a statement to the commanding officer to take immediate steps to prevent universal suicide from the threat of war.
“The way to peace is peace!” he said.
By: Koozma J. Tarasoff, anthropologist, ethnographer, historian, writer and peace activist. (firstname.lastname@example.org).