Uncertainty - Introduction

What does it mean to be a good Canadian citizen? Read the lyrics to “O Canada,” our national anthem, for some ideas.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

According to “O Canada,” a good citizen “stands on guard” to keep the “True North strong and free.” What would a good citizen do if Canada went to war? For most Canadians, the answer seemed quite clear. When Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, all Canadians were expected to fully support the war effort. Mennonites, and some other Canadians, refused to do that. Did that make them bad citizens?

Not necessarily. The purpose of the military is to defend values that are important to Canadians. These values include tolerance, diversity, respect, and freedom. Even though Mennonites did not support the military, they supported these essential Canadian values. Mennonites tried to respond to the war in a way that was consistent with their understanding of God and how to serve God and country faithfully.

The government recognized that there was more than one way to be a good Canadian citizen. Government worked with Mennonites to find a non-military way to support Canadian values. This was a difficult process, but eventually they reached a compromise that allowed conscientious objectors (COs) to do other, non-military service for their country.

animated speaker and sound wavesEd Bearinger did not want to join the military but he did want to serve his country and make a difference. Fire fighting in London, England was one idea he had.

As you read this section, find some of the different ways in which both the government and COs supported the country and its values.

Mennonites respect life and freedom and seek to live in peaceful existence with God's creation. While we acknowledge the sincerity of those who serve in the military, we believe in the power of truth, justice, and love rather than in the power of war. We respect those who answered the call to arms during the Second World War. We also deeply appreciate that Mennonites were able to respond in ways that reflected our convictions. We believe that the story of conscientious objectors is an important part of history.