The Mennonite presence in Alberta was established in the period
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
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.
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
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.
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.