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Mennonites

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Mennonites/Harry Loewen

Mennonites are an ethno-religious people who derive their name from Menno Simons (1496–1561), a former Roman Catholic priest and early Anabaptist leader. At present there are close to one million baptized Mennonites throughout the world. If one were to count unbaptized children and young people as well, as sociologists generally do, this number might be doubled or tripled.

In Canada there are some 200,000 Mennonites, of whom 114,400 are baptized members. They reside primarily in Ontario and in all the western provinces. (See Table 1.) The two largest groups in Canada are the Conference of Mennonites, generally referred to as the General Conference Mennonites (GCs), with 29,000 baptized members, and the Mennonite Brethren (MBs), with some 26,000 baptized members. These two groups comprise about 55 percent of Canada’s Mennonite population. Other groups are the Old Order Mennonites and Amish in Ontario, the Evangelical Mennonite Church (Kleine Gemeinde), the Old Colony Mennonites and Sommerfelder Church, the Chortitzer Mennonite Church, and the Bergthaler Churches in Alberta and Saskatchewan and several others. (See Table 2.) The membership among the smaller groups varies from about 1,000 to 7,000. (See also AMISH; GERMANS; HUTTERITES.)


Source: 1981 and 1991 Canadian censuses Note: Total includes all groups of Mennonites, including non-baptized persons. Hutterites are not included (21,495 in 1991).

Mennonite population in Canada
Province 1981 1991
Newfoundland - 30
Prince Edward Island - 20
Nova Scotia 220 560
New Brunswick 180 240
Quebec 1,075 1,655
Ontario 46,485 52,645
Manitoba 63,490 66,000
Saskatchewan 26,265 25,240
Alberta 20,545 22,330
British Columbia 30,895 39,055
Yukon Territory - 110
Northwest Territories - 85
Total 189,370 207,970

In theological terms, these groups are quite similar, but in terms of ethnicity or the way they live, there are considerable differences among them. The General Conference Mennonites and the Mennonite Brethren are the most liberal and acculturated among Canadian Mennonites, whereas the Old Order Mennonites, the Old Order Amish, and others are more conservative with regard to dress codes, methods of farming, and “separation from the world.”


Source: The Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5: 123

Mennonite groups in Canada, 1982
Name of group Members Congregations
Old Order Amish 725 14
Old Order Mennonites 1,387 10
Waterloo-Markham Conference 935 7
Beachy Amish Church 314 5
Conservative Mennonite Fellowship 95 2
Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario 325 8
Fellowship Churches 520 14
Midwest Fellowship 263 4
Other Conservative Groups 376 10
Northern Light Gospel Missions 287 21
Reformed Mennonites 162 2
Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec 5,292 42
Western Ontario Mennonite Conference 3,111 16
Northwest Mennonite Conference 1,000 17
Chortitzer Mennonite Conference 2,300 11
Sommerfelder Church of Manitoba 4,000 14
Other Sommerfelder Groups 1,675 5
Bergthaler Churches in Saskatchewan 1,002 6
Reinlaender Mennonite Church 800 6
Old Colony Mennonite Church 4,500 18
Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference 2,658 23
Evangelical Mennonite Conference 5,000 45
Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Conference 1,935 17
Church of God in Christ, Mennonite 2,500 30
Conference of Mennonites in Canada 28,152 147
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches 23,248 157
Total 91,646 638

Mennonites are both an ethnic group and a religious denomination. There is, however, still ambiguity and controversy among Mennonites about this issue, with some insisting that they are simply a religious group, while others arguing that they form a distinct ethnic group. Increasingly historians and sociologists treat Mennonites as an ethno-religious group, and the Canadian federal and provincial governments regard them as people distinct from others living in this country.