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So What? - Introduction

Canadian conscientious objectors cleared 44,115 acres (17,852 hectares) of snags during the war. That sounds like a lot of something, but what does it mean? First, you need to define the words. A snag is a dead tree that is still standing. Clearing a snag means to cut it down so other trees can grow. But how much is an acre? A football field is about one and a half acres – so that’s nearly 30,000 football fields!

But even if you know what the words mean, you don’t know if the work was hard or easy. Looking at pictures of snags and reading stories, we know that the work was challenging, especially without modern equipment. When you think about it that way, clearing 44,115 acres of snags takes on a whole new meaning.

Government officials agree: COs contributed substantially during the war. But dollar figures don’t tell the whole story. There is another way to measure the success of the CO experience.

Most of Canada’s COs were Mennonites. The Mennonites did not refuse to fight because they loved clearing snags, but because they chose to live a life of service and peace, rather than one of violence. The war strengthened this belief. After the war, many COs continued in a life of service. Many kept on giving, even after the war.


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.

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