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Jacob Klassen was one of those who was frozen at his job. He worked for a coal company before his call for military service and, after he claimed CO status, he continued working at reduced wages.


“In fall 1944 he was transferred to the grain terminals at Port Arthur , ON, where ships were loaded with grain for export…. Jake worked shifts, cleaning grain at the pool terminal which included 160 round storage bins, with additional square bin between the round ones. The rotating grain-cleaning crews consisted of 5-6 ASW men, many from the Winnipeg area….”


Humphrey Mitchell, the federal Labour Minister during the war, complimented the men at Port Arthur specifically for their work. He wrote


“Conscientious objectors have willingly undertaken heavy and difficult work during the war. Their services have been available at several periods when critical situations developed due to labor shortages. As an example of this, some 75 conscientious objectors were employed at the Head of the Lakes [known then as Port Arthur and later as Thunder Bay, Ontario] in loading and unloading grain cars at a time when a serious congestion was developing… Labour Department officials relate stories of conscientious objectors coming to district offices to obtain heavier and more difficult work in order to do more for the war effort.” [Toews, 110]


Jake worked at the grain terminals until the end of the war.


“When the veterans returned after VE day in 1945… Jake found himself without a job because the returning men were given priority. So Jake and Anne [his wife] returned to Winnipeg, where he found work at Canada Packers. [ASP, 106]


Near the end of the war, government officials handed out very few camp assignments. Most men who became COs in 1944 and 1945 were sent to take on agricultural or industrial jobs. David Schellenberg served in both areas. He spent two years doing agricultural service before being moved to the city.


“For 4 months I worked for the Arctic Ice Company in Wpg. They paid $15 a month to the Red Cross, the rest I got.” [MHC, 1015-13]


Dominion button works factory in Kitchener, Ontario


Another CO packed coffee at H.L. McKinnon's Ltd. in Winnipeg in 1945.


“My experience was very ordinary in that my employer was Christian and sympathetic to several of us who worked in his factory as COs .” [MHC, 1015-25]


These short descriptions give us a small glimpse into the work these COs performed, but for many COs, the work wasn't anything special. It was a natural part of their life. Luckily, we do have some longer, more descriptive accounts of industrial work.

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