with the Government
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the First World War, the issue of conscription had divided Canada.
Conscription meant that men of a certain age were sent to war whether
they wanted to go or not. The government did this because it needed
more men for the army. French Canadians, however, did not like this.
Canada had entered the war to support England, and French Canadians
wondered why they had to fight for an English cause.
the Second World War approached, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie
King knew that this would be a sensitive issue. King promised Canadians
that there would be no conscription during the war. Instead,
he proposed a policy of “limited liability.” This policy meant that
Canada would only supply as many men and as much material as necessary.
In this way, King hoped to avoid the mistake of promising too many
men as they had in the First World War. Read the government's
response to the concern over conscription. Document
Minister King's speech as recorded in Parliament's official transcript
called Hansard. MHC 1321 file 928.
of King's promise, Canada did not have conscription at the beginning
of the Second World War. Men were encouraged to join the army, but
doing so was voluntary. Then came the spring and summer of 1940.
Germany attacked Holland, Belgium, and France, defeating them all.
Very soon, Canada became England's biggest ally. In this situation,
a policy of limited liability was not sufficient. King's government
introduced the National Resources Mobilization Act in June, 1940.
National Registration Day came on August
20. Everyone eighteen to thirty-six years old had to register with
Canadians registered, they had to tell the military much about their
personal lives – when they were born, what languages they spoke,
where they worked, whether they had previous military experience,
and about the condition of their health. After they had registered,
the military would call them up for military training. This was
still not conscription. The National Resources Mobilization Act
and registration were only for home defense. Prime Minister King
promised that these men would not be sent into battle overseas.
though this military service was for home defense, and these soldiers
might never have to fire a shot, Mennonites did not want to participate.
Church leaders went to Ottawa to negotiate with the government.
While there were difficult discussions with the government there
were a few members of the government who were sympathetic to the
Mennonite situation. read article
2. A few church leaders felt they could not in good conscience
offer alternative service and created their own committee known
which included David Reimer, Jacob Barkman, David
Schulz, and Jacob Bartel.
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