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Mennonites

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The Mennonite presence in Alberta was established in the period after World War I, related to revolution and upheaval in Russia. The Mennonites were only allowed to immigrate into Canada after meeting many stipulations. As pacificists, they had to agree that they would accept forms of military service.  As well, the costs associated with reestablishing their settlments would be privately funded. 

Abraham Klassen Of these early Mennonite immigrants, few came to Alberta. The ones that did arrive here, however, were known as "Russlanders." Although the cost of reestablishing communities their Mennonites was an economic burden, the Canadian Pacific Railway was offering land for sale at reasonable prices in an effort to populate areas near the railroads. 

cartoon The Mennonites settled generally within southern Alberta, in communities such as Brooks and Duchess, although some Mennonite families settled in central Albertan communities. In Alberta, Mennonite settlers did not form the communal communities they did elsewhere. Nevertheless, the new Mennonite Albertans quickly established themselves.

Winnipeg Arrival As circumstances in Russia deteriorated, it became increasingly difficult for other Mennonites to immigrate and join their families and coreligionists. By 1927, Mennonite immigration to Alberta came to a standstill. As Adolf Hitler rose to power, the struggle of the Russian Mennonites were, to a large extent, unheeded. As well, the prevailing prejudices of the day made Mennonite immigration into Alberta unwelcome. 

Many factors fueled the hostility toward Mennonites including their use of the German language and a small minority of Mennonites who had sympathy for the Nazi cause. About half of the Mennonites in Canada who were eligible to fight in the war did so. Mennonites who registered as conscientious objectors were usually sent to work in national parks. Some Mennonites in Canada were sent to prison and harshly treated.

In the aftermath of World War II, many Russian Mennonites were displaced. During this time, Canada allowed immigration of a select number of Mennonites, those related to Canadian Mennonites, or those who would serve as labourers in lumber camps or as farm workers on sugar beet farms.

 
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