Winnipeg Great War Veterans’ Association on the Hutterites (1919)

The policy of the government in continuing to admit alien immigrants in the West, is bringing about a very acute and very ugly situation. The attitude of the veterans, which has been persistent and strenuous opposition, has met with wide support from all sections in the West. This fact has given the question a national significance—indeed, according to Ottawa, it may give rise to international complications. The patience of the soldiers is exhausted and they are determined, even if they have to take the matter into their own hands, that immigration of undesirable aliens must cease immediately. The gravity of the situation is, therefore, apparent. The Winnipeg veterans passed a very long resolution at a recent meeting in this connection, in which they summarize the history of the Hutterites, a sect which is now coming across the line in large numbers.

Under an agreement made in the year 1899, a number of a German-speaking denomination of Christians, called Hutterites, were permitted by the Dominion government to settle in Manitoba in the neighborhood of Dominion City, these people being guaranteed complete exemption from military service by said government. These Hutterite settlers subsequently departed from Canada and returned to the state of South Dakota, U.S.A., from whence they came in the first place.

This sect or denomination professes to be governed by the rules, regulations, and doctrines embodied in a small volume printed in German and entitled, “Rechenschaft unsrer Religion, Lehrer und Glaubens von den Brudern, die man die Hetterischen nennt,” and has, through its leaders and officers, publicly admitted that where the law of the land is at variance with or contrary to the tenets and principles of this sect, as based on the volume referred to, the members of the sect are bound to disregard the law of the land and pay heed only to these rules, regulations, and doctrines aforesaid.

Their religious convictions prevent them from participating in war or contributing thereto in any way whatsoever, whether by the purchase of war loan bonds, subscriptions to the Red Cross and Patriotic funds, or otherwise.

The Hutterites live in colonies of from 80 to 140 each, or thereabouts. Each colony lives in one large house, taking their meals in one room, holding and cultivating their land in common, etc., and owing to their convictions and methods of living, are never likely to become good Canadian citizens or desirable settlers.

In the year 1918, while this country was at war and notwithstanding the provisions of the Military Service Act, the Dominion government renewed the agreement of the year 1899 and permitted these Hutterites to settle in the prairie provinces of Canada, complete exemption from military service being again guaranteed by the government. Six colonies of these people are now established in Manitoba in the neighborhood of Benard, 35 miles west of Winnipeg on the Canadian National railways, and have secured land located in such a manner as to interfere with the development of large sections of this locality by desirable settlers.

It is considered by the Great War Veterans’ Association that encouragement by the Dominion authorities of the immigration of such undesirable settlers is likely to prove detrimental to the immigration of our own kith and kin from the United Kingdom, and it is desirable to give the widest publicity in the United Kingdom as well as in Canada, to the fact that this association is irrevocably opposed to the practices hereinbefore mentioned.

Having enumerated the above particulars, and for the reasons contained, the branch resolved:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by this, the Great War Veterans’ association of Canada (Winnipeg branch):

(1) That the attention of the Dominion government be drawn forthwith to the above facts and statements.

(2) That the said government be informed that this association will do everything in its power to prevent the further immigration of Hutterites from the United States or elsewhere.

(3) That the said government be requested to have all Hutterites at present located in the province of Manitoba deported without delay.

(4) That this association deems a guarantee by the Dominion government of exemption from military service, while the country is in a state of war, and having regard to the provisions of the Military Service Act, to be unpatriotic, unconstitutional, contrary to public interest, ultra vires, null and void.

(5) That this association demand that the responsibility for the admission of these Hutterites to Canada and their exemption from military service be fixed as soon as possible and that those upon whom the responsibility is found to rest, be relieved from all public appointments, honors, and emoluments, and be debarred from ever again holding any public appointment or position of honour in Canada.

(6) That a copy of this resolution be sent to the following:

(a) The Canadian Club of Winnipeg.
(b) Senators Benard and Sharpe.
(c) Every member of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada.
(d) Every member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
(e) Every daily newspaper in the Dominion of Canada.
(f) Such newspapers in the United Kingdom as may be selected.
(g) The G.W.V.A. advisory committee to the Repatriation Committee of the cabinet.
(h) The Dominion Executive, G.W.V.A.
(i) The provincial command, G.W.V.A., Alberta.
(j) The provincial command, G.W.V.A., Saskatchewan.

(7) That members of parliament in the United Kingdom be requested to accept the regrets of this association that there are men in the public life of Canada, who would countenance the state of affairs hereinbefore disclosed, while large numbers of good British men would be glad to settle on Canadian farms.

Turner’s Weekly News (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), April 19, 1919, page 14.

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