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service took many different forms. Farming is one of those we know
about least. Of the 262,634 Canadians who delayed their military
service, 65% did so because they were needed on the farm. Among
conscientious objectors, the percentage is similar. At the end of
1945, 6,655 out of 10,851 conscientious objectors were employed
in agriculture. With this in mind, why do you think the other areas
of alternate service receive so much more attention? Why is it that
of all the types of alternative service, we have the hardest time
finding pictures and stories about agricultural activities?
are a number of reasons.
on farms did not have regular contact with other COs. Those men
in forestry camps, on the other hand, were surrounded by other COs.
They were also a long way from home, so they took more pictures
and wrote more letters home. They were doing something they had
never done before, and they were excited. Today, these records survive
in archives. Many COs on farms served in their home community. Even
though their work was vital to the Canadian economy, it did not
seem very glamorous.
the beginning of the war, many COs went to alternative service camps.
Those COs who farmed usually had a special reason and had some of
the men had to sign contracts.
Poettcker was a young man in Alberta when he received his military
I was the son of a widow I received an agricultural postponement
to remain on the home farm.” [MHC, 1015-2]
Dyck was in a similar situation.
mother being a widow at the time I worked for her on the farm
and she paid monthly to the Red Cross [on my behalf]” [MHC, 1015-51]
both of these men, Henry A. Wiens probably could have avoided military
service by claiming that he was essential to the family farm. Wiens,
however, would not deny his beliefs in that way. He declared himself
to be a CO to take a stand against war.
I was the oldest boy in the family, the others still in public
school, I was allowed to remain as a farm worker on my father's
farm. He had to pay a certain amount of money every month, for
the duration. While I could have remained a farm laborer without
declaring myself a CO, I was glad to witness to this.” [MHC, 1015-15]
times a CO sent to a camp made a request to be transferred to a
farm where they were needed.
Pankratz refused to go back to the camp because he felt it was more
important to help out on the farm.
Read the letter he wrote. The government did not always allow
them to stay on the farm. Frank Dyck also requested to remain
on the farm and wrote about his circumstances in a letter.
Read the letter.
times officials were reluctant to let the COs work on the farms.
At times church leaders advocated for the COs.
Read Bishop David Toews' letter to R.S. Hinchey to try to help Ruben
Siemens remain on his family's farm.
during the the government instructed the officials to allow more
COs to remain on the farm. (artilce
1 article 2) The CO newsletter,
The Beacon also reported that
more young men would be allowed to stay on the farm.
|Cows in a farmer's field
||Farmers cutting grain
||Farm yard scene
theme of payments to the Red Cross is common in agricultural CO
stories. In the spring of 1944, the forestry camps closed down and
the COs were shifted to essential industries like farming.
my fifteen months in BC camps, various fellows left, either to
join the forces or were sent home to work on farms. In mid-November,
1943, I received a notice and ticket to report at a fruit farm
in Vineland Station. I started there December 1, 1943. Part of
my wages went to the Red Cross till the end of the war. My parents
had moved to Jordan Harbour, Ontario, not far from where I was
working now. I was on a CO contract there till at least the middle
of 1945 when the war ended.” [ASM, 55-58]
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