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Who are the Mennonites?

Mennonite Stew - A Glossary

History and Immigration of Mennonites into Canada

Canada has been home to Mennonites since 1786.  The first Canadian Mennonites came from Pennsylvania.  They were pushed to Canada in part by hostility arising from their pacifism during the American Revolution.  They were also drawn by the promises and opportunities of a new western agricultural frontier where minority rights seemed better protected than in revolutionary America.  Approximately 2,000 Mennonites went from Pennsylvania to Ontario between 1786 and 1825.

A second major migration of Mennonites to Canada occurred in the 1870s when thousands of Mennonites living in Russia sought new homes on North American prairie frontiers.  About 7,000 Russian Mennonites migrated to Manitoba in the 1870s.  Two large land reserves were set aside for the Mennonites in the 1870s and two more in Saskatchewan in the 1890s.  None of these reserves were ever completely filled with Mennonites so later non-Mennonites also settled there.  Many of the Mennonites chose to take up individual homesteads rather than to live on the reserve.

The third major migration came as a result of the Russian Revolution and Civil War.  Approximately 22,000 Russian Mennonites emigrated to Canada between 1923 and 1929.  The immigrants of the 1920s made no attempt to achieve a geographical separation from the rest of Canadian society and sought no exclusive land grants or reserves.

The fourth migration took place during World War II.  These were Mennonite war refugees and displaced persons from eastern Europe, of whom about 7,000 came to Canada in the late 1940s.  Few of these persons took up farming.  Instead they pursued other economic opportunities.  They played a key role in the urbanization and integration of Canadian Mennonites into Canadian economic, social, cultural, and educational life.

There are many groups of Canadian Mennonites.  Until 1999, there had been three major groups: The Mennonite Church, The General Conference of Mennonites and the Mennonite Brethren.  Those who were part of the Mennonite Church were mainly from Swiss and South German areas and had migrated from Pennsylvania.  The General Conference of Mennonites were people who had migrated from Russia and northern Germany after 1870. The third group is the Mennonite Brethren who were from Russia and organized their conference (in Russia) in the late 1870s.  In 1999, the General Conference Mennonites and the Mennonite Church integrated and formed Mennonite Church Canada.  There are also many Amish groups, mostly in Ontario. 

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