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Uncertainty before the Judge

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Still, the majority of COs who appeared before a judge remember it being a hard experience. The judges, and others present in the courtroom, used a number of different tactics. One, as we have seen, was intimidation. Other times, the judge would try to get the CO to compromise his values in a small way. In P.A. Unger's case, the judge tempted him with freedom.


“It was suggested to me that the 4 months “Basic Training,” which was to be the first assignment, “wouldn't hurt” anyone. I responded: “If I am thus trained, I will be used for military purposes.” I was then informed that my medical category was “E” which would exempt me from military duty: “So why not enlist and receive your discharge. Then you are free. If not you will have to go to the CO camps.” I felt, though this might be the case, because of extremely poor vision in my left eye, it could be a trap on their part. Besides I felt that for me to take advantage of that situation would be a denial or betrayal of my non-resistant stand, and told the judge so. Up till then, Harvey [the judge] was the only one who had spoken to me. But at this, one of the other men roundly denounced me to be an unworthy citizen of Canada.” [MHC, 1015-66]


Sometimes, as in Unger's story, the CO had to contend with more than just the judge. Another CO remembers one court observer who was so aggressive that the judge had to quiet him down.


“The court room was set up [with] the judge, a short hand stenographer, one army official, another official – his authority unknown to me, and an official from the Canadian Legion. The latter seemed to want to have the most to say, and as far as I'm concerned the most meaningless too. His preference was to make a fool of you, rather than to get sound decisions. He was frequently quieted down by the judge.” [MHC, 1015-58]


At times, the scene must have been rather confusing. Neither side could truly understand the other. The judges were strong patriots. They could not believe there was a group of people who refused to fight. George Kroeker's recollection shows how the judge misunderstood his intentions.


“I was fearful that the judge would lash out and we would all suffer for it. But I was amused how calm the judge was when I appeared before him. He had received my letter for postponement, requesting for a brief stay of calling for military training. He assumed that I wanted to be exempted from military services. I told him that it was not the case. I needed a few more weeks to complete my grade 12 high school He agreed to grant me those few months. But he was inquisitive to know into which contingent in the armed forces I would chose. “The non-combatant medical corps,” was my answer. He could not oblige since Canada did not have such arrangement. He questioned me if I would work in ammunition factories or be trained for radar-radio operation or join the air force. To which I told him, “If I make bullets, direct planes to bomb cities, I may just as well have dropped them myself, which I could not.” He was puzzled. “I will give you until September to decide which of the choices you will join,” was his final command.” [ASM, 18-21]

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