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Judges vs. Conscientious Objectors

In a classroom setting you would want as many people as possible involved.   There are two main roles to be played - the judge and the conscientious objector (CO). Small roles could include the stenographer, RCMP officer, Legionnaire, father of the CO, minister of the CO.   Choose one to three people (depending on the size of class) to be the judge and his/her supporting cast.   The rest of the people could be considered conscientious objectors and each had to have their turn before the judge.   Have each group, judges and COs , do research for each of the sides they represent.   You could ask the judge to make up questions and the COs respond with their own answers, or provide set questions and answers.   Set up the room as court with the judge's bench raised, provide costumes if you so desire.




•  Judge

•  Stenographer

•  RCMP officer

•  Legionnaire


CO Conscientious Objector

•  Father of the young conscientious objector

•  Minister supporting the conscientious objector.

•  Note: the minister and father, if allowed into the courtroom, were there for morale support, they could not say anything to the judge.



Review the site to gain an understanding of the people involved and their points of view.   For this section, the Uncertainty Before the Judge http://www.alternativeservice.ca/uncertainty/judge/   the Sacrifice discrimination http://www.alternativeservice.ca/sacrifice/discrimination/index.htm Hard questions   http://www.alternativeservice.ca/hard/ and history http://alternativeservice.ca/history/index.htm are the most pertinent; however other sections may also be helpful.   If you have only one computer in the room you can give each group a turn at the computer to look at the site while the other group looks at paper copies.   You could make their research as part of their home work assignment and then they could access a computer at home or their local library. Or make available paper copies of the most pertinent materials form the web site.



- Try to understand the values of the judges, what their goals were, and their own personal experiences.   Note their age, socioeconomic position, and formal education.   Their aim was to encourage the war effort and allow only sincere COs to do alternative service.   Options included working at: camp, farm, hospital, teacher in northern communities, prison, medic in the military.

- prepare two to three sets of 5-7 questions to ask the different young conscientious objectors based on questions on the web site.

- RCMP officer was there ensure orderliness, stenographer takes notes, Legionnaire there to encourage enlistment.


Conscientious Objector:

•  Try to understand the values of the CO, what their background was, and their religious

orientation.   Note: their age, socioeconomic position, education, mother language.   The aim is to convince the judge that you are sincere and going to war is against your personal convictions.   Options are working on your own farm, working on someone else's farm, working in a camp, hospital, teacher in a northern community, medic in the military, or prison.


Suggested profiles: you may make up your own:

Conscientious objector profile #1

•  You are 20 years old.

•  You live on your parents farm

•  You are the oldest in the family of 8 children.

•  You have a grade 5 formal education

•  Languages spoken: German and some English.


Conscientious objector profile #2

•  You are 18 years old.

•  You live on your parents farm

•  You are the youngest son in the family of 5.  

•  You have a grade 9 formal education.

•  Languages spoken: English


Conscientious Objector profile #3

•  You are 24 years old

•  You live in a city

•  You are newly married and have a 3 month old daughter.

•  You work as a mechanic

•  You have a grade 6 formal education.

•  Languages spoken: English and German.

•  Your father is a minister who supports alternative service.

Conscientious objector profile #4

•  You are 23 years old

•  You live in a small town with people of various backgrounds

•  You are single

•  You have finished high school and teacher's training

•  You are teaching in a 1-room school house grades 1-8.

•  Some of your former students volunteer for military service

•  Languages spoken: English and German

•  You are a member of a Mennonite church.


Give the 2 groups 20 minuets to prepare.   The conscientious objectors could fill out a registration form, a sample can be seen and used from the web site at http://www.alternativeservice.ca/uncertainty/government/sampleform.htm These completed forms should be given to the judges to look at before the the judges interview the conscientious objectors.

During this time set up the courtroom.   Try to have the judge's bench raised.   Get costumes ready if you have some at this time.


After the 20 minutes are up call the judge to the bench with the stenographer, RCMP officer and legionnaire.   Have the RCMP officer call up the next applicant.


The young conscientious objector rises and stands in front of the judge, his minister and father remain silent.


The judge then asks the conscientious objector 5-7 questions to determine if this individual is sincere.   Conscientious objector allowed to respond.   Based on the answers the judge makes a ruling of what is to happen to the conscientious objector.


After the role play is completed allow some time to have the students talk about their experience.   Some questions you may want to ask include:


  1. How did it feel to defend what you believed?
    1. Was it easy or hard.
  2. Did you feel the judge sincerely listened to you?
  3. Judges how easy or hard was it to determine a person's beliefs in a short interview?
  4. What are some things you believe in today that you would be willing to be put on trial for?
  5. Was the experience intimidating?
  6. Judges was it frustrating for you to allow these young men shirk their duties when you felt they should defend the country?


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