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Mennonites in Canada and the First World War

Mennonites had similar difficulties, both because many spoke German and because they refused to serve in the army. People who didn't even know any Mennonites decided they were bad people.


Although many people did not like that Mennonites spoke German, there was a law saying that Mennonites did not have to serve in the military. Canada respected its promise to the Mennonites. Canada 's Mennonites were fortunate to live in a tolerant country. Many other countries were not as understanding.


Canada had made that law to attract Mennonite farmers to Canada. When a group of Mennonites had come from Russia to Manitoba in 1874, the Canadian government had guaranteed that the Mennonites would not have to do any military service. This was part of Canadian law. Canada had wanted hard-working farmers and so they agreed to a special law just for the Mennonites.


In 1916, however, the government decided to make a list of all the males in Canada between 16 and 65 years old. Mennonites were afraid that the army would use this list to force their men into service. Some refused to register on the list. Others wrote “Mennonite” on their cards to make sure there was no confusion about their beliefs.


By the end of the war, Mennonites had contributed to the war effort in many ways. Although they did not willingly supply men or money to any military cause, they did give money to the Red Cross to help lessen the suffering caused by war. Mennonite farms also produced a lot of food for Canadian families.

When the Second World War began in 1939, Mennonites in Canada responded in a similar, but not identical, manner.

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