There are about 100,000 Mennonites in Canada today, almost all descendants of those who joined a Protestant sect in the Netherlands in the early sixteenth century under the leadership of Menno Symons. The movement eventually divided into two broad factions: one group refused to have anything to do with the secular state and sustained a hostile attitude to private property; the more “liberal” clans were inclined to compromise. Many of the former – the Ammanites – moved to the US and then Ontario, settling around Kitchener-Waterloo, while the more liberal population migrated to Russia and then Manitoba in the 1870s. The Steinbach area remains a Mennonite stronghold, and though few adherents wear the traditional black and white clothes or live on communal farms, most maintain the pacifist tradition.

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