Conscientious Objectors
Dawson Markle and Bruce Aitken

“A conscientious objector is an individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service.” [1] In World War 1, many people wanted to avoid going to war. Though there were many reasons used, the most effective were the freedoms of religion, conscience, and thought. Most conscientious objectors were still required to serve their country in the war in some way, whether directly or indirectly. Some examples of direct involvement are stretcher-bearers, medical orderlies, and cooks. People required to be an indirect part of the war often became farmers. In Canada during World War 1, no Mennonites were required by law to participate in War. Dukhobors were another Christian group that refused to go to war. There were 10,700 conscientious objectors in Canada during World War 1. Of these, 63% were Mennonite and 20% Dukhobors. In Britain, Men who refused to serve their country altogether in the war were forced to give up their right to vote for five years. Some men that refused to serve in war were handed prison sentences, and all were looked down upon. [1/2]

Enemy Aliens

During World War 1 there were many immigrants and political radicals within Canada. They were invited by Canada from Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1914 when war broke out the immigrants from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire became official enemy aliens to Canada. Nykyta Budka, a Ukrainian Catholic bishop, urged immigrants to return to Europe to help their “old Fatherland in any way we can.” Many Canadians took them as evidence that immigrants from Ukraine were not to be trusted. The Manitobans demanded that employers fire any foreign workers. Local restaurants even went so far as to rename the hamburger, with its connotations of the German city of Hamburg, as a nip. This was
a time of censorship and repression. Two weeks after the declaration of war in August 1914, the government introduced the War Measures Act. Anyone who had not taken out citizenship and was a citizen of a country at war with Canada was considered an enemy alien. This act took away many of the aliens natural born rights. The regulations required enemy aliens to register and regularly report to the federal government. Their movement within Canada was very restricted. Many of these immigrants and radicals were thrown into places called internment camps. These camps are run by the government; they are a place where people who are considered a threat are detained. The federal government registered and detained many “enemy aliens”. There were a total of 120,000 enemy aliens in Canada. 80,000 of them were registered and 8579 men, 81 women, and 156 children were interned in these camps. They were detained for a variety of reasons. Some of which were: they had radical political ideas, possessed prohibited literature, attended illegal meetings and groups. By 1918, 184 bans were placed. With the end of the war Canada’s chief censor’s powers increased. He placed a ban on any publication in an enemy language. Fred Langdon Davis, the Member of Parliament for Neepawa, was one of the few politicians to defend the interned men. In a speech he said, “If we treat such men as men and brothers, we will make Canadians of them; if we treat them in any other fashion, we will make of them an alien element in Canada.” By 1916 most of the interned men across Canada had been paroled. It was not until 1920 that the last interned enemy alien was released. Many of the interned people, deeply offended by their treatment in Canada, decided to return to Europe. [3/4]

" YouTube - 1/3 Freedom Had A Price DVD Highlights ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <>.


Duffy, Michael. "First World - Encyclopedia - Conscientious Objectors." First World - A Multimedia History of World War One. N.p., 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. < [1]

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"World War One." Canada's Rights Movement: A History. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. < [3]

"World War I: the war at home." Manitobia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. < [4]