Martin Cohnstaedt Award

In recognition of Martin Cohnstaedt, a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany in 1933, who became a pacifist and then a Quaker. He devoted his life to the ideal of a non-violent world. On his 80th birthday in 1997, the distinguished Quaker activist Ursula Franklin wrote, “Martin understood more astutely than many [Quakers] that pacifism should not be interpreted solely as an approach to war; pacifism, as a way of life, dictates the pacifist’s response to power, be it when exercising power or when being subjected to its external demands. The orders to kill are…the final and most horrible demands of power, but Martin saw clearly how many other demands of power needed to be resisted as a public witness.”

As a German citizen–an ‘enemy alien’–living in the U.S., he was required to agree to bear arms in order to become an American citizen. Martin refused, declaring himself a conscientious objector, and was denied citizenship. He fought the decision, eventually taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he eventually won his right to citizenship in 1950. He moved to Canada in 1967 enthusiastic about his work for social justice, and became a Canadian citizen. In the late 1970s, Martin was dismissed from his position as a Professor of Sociology at the University of Regina. He charged the University with wrongful dismissal and took his case to the Canadian Supreme Court, a process that took sixteen years. Again he won. The University had abused its power. Throughout his life, Martin worked tirelessly for the empowerment of marginalized people, among them poor blacks, single mothers, convicts, and Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

2014-2015 Competition

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