Alternative Service Work - Contents

  • Most of the conscientious objectors came from rural communities and were used to hard manual labour on the family farm.
  • Necessities like sugar, rubber, and fuel were hard to find during the war. When an especially cold winter hit Canada during the war, the COs chopped firewood to heat houses and businesses.
  • Conscientious objectors were willing and able to do all sorts of work. Survey crews helped tell them where to work.
  • Government officials were afraid that enemy countries would use firebombs to burn down Canadian forests. Although this never happened, the COs were there to fight many accidental fires.
  • The work the COs did in Canada's national parks helped create a tourism boom after the war. One of their projects in Riding Mountain National Park was to build a dam.
  • The COs planted millions of trees. Today, those seedlings have grown into beautiful forests.
  • The COs built and improved roads and highways across Canada. One of their most important projects was working on the Trans Canada highway in Ontario.
  • Forest fires had destroyed whole forests in British Columbia. The COs cut down the burned trees, or “snags,” so that a new forest could grow.
  • Perhaps the strangest thing the COs did was work on an experimental weapon. The story is so amazing it's hard to believe. How did these peace lovers get involved with this top secret project?
  • The government created a manual for the camp foremen to help run the camps in a uniform and orderly manner.  Included is a list of camp rules.
Summary of Major Project Work Performed by Alternative Service Men in Canadian National Parks
Nature of Work From June 1st, 1941 to March 31st, 1946
Highway Construction 1.7 miles
Secondary road construction 56.56 miles
Highway improvement 50 miles
Secondary road improvement 143.50 miles
Fencing (rods) 2147 rods
Fence posts 2471 posts
Pony trails improved 21.6 miles
Telephone lines built 22.95 miles
Telephone lines improved 213 miles
Fire trails constructed 12.25 miles
Fire trails improved 142 miles
Culverts built 31
Bridges built 11 (one steel bridge)
Telephone poles 192
Saw-timber produced (board feet) 2,786,000 board feet
Mine props produced (linear feet) 808,405 linear feet
Sawlogs produced (feet board measure) 277,915 feet board
Fuel-wood (cord) 7,022 cords
Gravel (hauled and spread) 3,115 cubic yards
J.A. Toews, Alternative Service in Canada during World War II