At the dawn of the 20th century, countless immigrants arrived in Canada. Some of them from Finland ended up working in Robert Dunsmuir's Nanaimo coal mines. They were hard workers, but they hated Dunsmuir's kind of brutally exploitive work. Dreaming of something better, they summoned a Finnish writer and activist, Matti Kurikka, to lead them in creating a new kind of community.
That was Sointula, Finnish for "place of harmony," a pioneer town carved out of the woods on Malcolm Island near the northern end of Vancouver Island. It was to be a co-operative community of utopian socialists.
Now into its second century, that community is still alive. But like so many B.C. towns which have seen resource jobs disappear and populations dwindle, Sointula is struggling and looking for new ways to sustain itself. In order to move forward, it is looking to its past -- and again looking to Finland for advice.