Discrimination against CO Teachers

Here is how Jac. Schroeder described his encounter with the judge.

“The room grew deadly quiet as Judge J.E. Adamson, chairman of the local Mobilization Board, entered with his secretary. His opening statement was blunt but brief, to the effect that Canada was at war, its future was at stake and every able-bodied man and woman was needed to help Canada in this crisis. National interests now came before personal interests or conscience. Then he called on the first boy to step forward to face him. 

“Fortunately, three boys were asked to appear before the judge ahead of me so I could watch, become familiar with the proceedings and notice what type of questions he asked. It was plain to me that Judge Adamson detested what COs stood for and tried to bully them into joining the armed forces. His mannerisms, the questions and the way the questions were asked appeared aggressive, adversarial, brutal, full of malice and prejudice, designed to brow-beat and scare. This was not my understanding of a legitimate court but rather an irregular kangaroo court where the accused had no counsel to assist and speak for them. It was more like an inquisition delivering punishment to those believed to be contrary to the ruling powers. One of the boys seemed very nervous and had great difficulty answering the judge.

“Judge Adamson was the whole court. Our destiny was in his hands. It took him less than fifteen minutes to deal with the first three applicants. I was next. As I stepped forward I saw him reading a letter, no doubt the one I had written to the Selective Service since his first question to me inferred he knew something of my background.         

              “You are a teacher?” was his opening question.

              “Yes, I'm a teacher in the rural school of Neuhoffnung ,” I replied.

              “What grades do you teach?”

              “Grades one to eight, sir.”

              “How do you open the school exercises each day?”

              “I, together with my students repeat the Lord's prayer and sing ‘O Canada'.”

              “You mean to tell me that you sing ‘O Canada, we stand on guard for thee' every day? Then why are you protesting joining the armed forces to guard our country against an army of international gangsters?”

              I sensed that the judge was trying to belittle, embarrass and shame me into submission, but I kept my cool and replied, “To me, sir, standing on guard for one's country means to guard and protect that which is good, respect for one another, honesty, truth and justice, and caring for the welfare of all our citizens.”

              Judge Adamson allowed only one sentence answers and quickly asked another question, probably to make me nervous or confuse me. I was surprised how calm I was.

              “Do you teach German?” he continued.

              “Yes, I teach one half hour of German a day to all grades from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. as permitted by the Department of Education.”

              “Why are you not in the armed forces fighting the Germans and Hitler?”

              “Because my conscience does not permit me to kill to solve problems.”

              “Do you kill pigs?”

              “Yes…” before I could continue to explain, he was pushing another question.

              “What is the difference between killing a pig and a German?”

              “We kill pigs for food,” I replied.

              “Do you teach religion?”

              “I have daily half-hour periods where pupils read Bible stories as allowed by the Department of Education.”

              “Do you interpret the Bible stories according to your church doctrine?”

              “The pupils are asked to memorize the church's Catechism which comes in question and answer form so I don't need to do any interpreting.”

              With that the inquisition was over. It ended as abruptly as it had begun. Compassion was not registered on Judge Adamson's face; respect for another person's opinions was lacking. His glowering facial expressions registered only disgust and repugnance for someone who dared to come before him and state conscientious objections to military participation. His final statement exposed his disdain for Mennonite teachers and his intention to discredit them in public. He abruptly turned to his secretary or recorder and said, “‘Write down that he is teaching his pacifist ideas to his students and that I recommend that his teaching certificate be cancelled. As an alternative service I recommend that he be sent to work in a coal mine.' With that he dismissed me.” [ ASP , 163-164]