Conscientious Objectors in Prison - Page 4

Peter Friesen was another CO sentenced to jail as an example to others.

“My encounter with the public as a CO started when I put up a poster, opposing conscription, in the window of my business place…. After several weeks or so, one of the local returned soldiers of World War I had a serious exchange of words with me. He said I had no business running a business and should have been put in a concentration camp. He left saying that he had been paid $1.25 a day for shooting people like me…. He also went to town and complained that I had things stored on my premises that endangered the community. Next day the town police came to investigate, but the only thing that he recommended I do away with were the empty gasoline drums. I promptly removed them from my premises.”

“In the meantime quite a few Mennonite boys had been picked up as COs , and taken to different camps. John Pauls of Purves chose CO status, but the local prosecutor strongly argued against it. He was sentenced to one year in Headingly jail. After the hearing he was put in a cell in the Manitou town hall, where I visited him that night. A young Mountie was guarding him all night. Soon after that I received my call. I informed my church and they advised me to get in contact with Mr. A. Buhr. The churches had engaged him to act as a lawyer on behalf of the COs. He asked me when I would be ready for a hearing, and I asked him to delay it so that I could clean up my business affairs.”

 “About six weeks later my hearing came up, and anybody that knew about it, showed up to listen in. Mr. Buhr put up a good argument and convinced the judge that it would not be right to put me in jail as I had volunteered for any other service, except to become a soldier. The judge postponed the sentence until he had more information as to the possibility of my being employed in some other essential service. I was free to go on $1000.00 bail. But I was to be available at any time the government wanted me.”

“My next hearing came in November, and people were very interested in finding out what would happen. The room couldn't hold all the people that showed up for the hearing. During the hearing the crown prosecutor again brought up the seriousness of the war, in which the allies were losing on all fronts, and men were desperately needed. The two lawyers put up good arguments and it came to quite serious and hard discussions.”

“Toward the end the judge asked me some different questions. One of the last was what I would do if someone would forcibly try to take my property. I said I didn't know what I would do, but I remembered when the Bolsheviks in Russia took our last two horses from the barn, my father tried to stop them at the door. He was just pushed aside and threatened with a gun. The judge asked if that was all my father did. I said it would have been very unwise to do more as two men had already been shot in the village. The bandits rode off with the horses and we never saw them again. The judge gave me a serious look and sentenced me to one year in jail. He also informed me that he had tried to look for alternative work, but in my case it was the law to sentence me. He then placed me in charge of the Mounties. Many people came and shook my hand and wished me well.” [TTbP, 71-78]