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It may be said that when Canada became a member of the International Labor Organization, Canadian labor legislation entered upon a new phase. The promotion of laws for the protection of the workers against the evils of industrialism, which before had been mainly the concern oi the trade unions, became a matter of international obligation. This function at once assumed new dignity and importance. Labor legislation is now receiving attention in Canada as never before, and fortunately so, for it rests with Canadians at large whether their country will rank among the nations as a leader or a laggard in this field. If this outline of the growth of a considerable body of the labor law of Canada affords some background for the prevailing discussion, its main purpose will have been achieved.

The study traces to the end of 1925 the development of the legislation of Canada, Dominion and provincial, within the scope of the nine methods and principles of the Labor Section of the Treaty of Versailles, and endeavors to show in what degree it conforms to this new industrial jus gentium. To some readers the chapters on the nine principles of the Labor Section will appear unduly meticulous in their narration of changes in the statutes, but in this they may serve to emphasize the slow process by which competent legislation is attained. They show abundantly that an effective statute is not to be had “all complete like Minerva springing fully armed from the brain of Jupiter," as the Canadian Manufacturer said when a Dominion factories act was being considered in 1882. It is hoped, too, that this detailed treatment will relieve students of the subject from the necessity of consulting some hundreds of volumes of statutes.


As to the method of these chapters, each begins with a statement of the principle of the Labor Section with which it deals. This is followed, in order to show what further interpretation has been given the principle, by a summary of the draft conventions and recommendations on the subject adopted by the International Labor Conferences. An outline of the legislation is given next, the legislation of the competent authorities, Dominion or provincial, being treated in the order in which they gave attention to the subject. Each of these chapters concludes with a summarized statement of the development of the legislation. Readers impatient of the detailed treatment are referred to the summaries. Those interested in the text of the labor laws should consult the annual and quinquennial volumes on labor legislation issued by the Department of Labor of Canada since 1915.

It is impossible to mention by name the many who have contributed to this study. Professors Samuel McCune Lindsay and Robert L. Schuyler of Columbia University read the manuscript and made helpful suggestions for its improvement. Mr. Tom Moore, president of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada, was kind enough to read and criticize Chapter V, and Mr. J. G. O'Donoghue, K.C., solicitor of the Congress, offered criticisms on Chapters II and V. Mr. W. C. Clark, Economist of S. W. Straus & Co., formerly of Queen's University, has contributed a number of valuable suggestions. The author has had the advantage of reading an excellent manuscript on the Canadian labor movement by Dr. H. A. Logan of Randolph-Macon Woman's College and of the use of the valuable library of the Department of Labor at Ottawa. He wishes especially to acknowledge his indebtedness to Mrs. Stewart for countless hours of assistance. In so detailed a study errors are bound to occur, and for these the author alone is responsible.


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“The nations of the world by the Peace Treaty have adopted principles which until now were but ideals. As Canada is just entering the stage of greatest development, we have an opportunity unique among the nations for growth in harmony with those new principles.” (From the report of the Royal Commission on Industrial Relations, Canada, 1919.)

In beginning this study of the development of Canadian legislation in the fields covered by the nine methods and principles of the Labor Section of the Treaty of Versailles, it will be necessary to outline the Labor Section of the Treaty, to give the salient facts concerning the establishment of the International Labor Organization and to trace briefly its history, especially in its bearing on Canada. As the study proposes to show the extent to which Canadian labor legislation has conformed to the international standards adopted at Versailles, it will be essential to indicate the interpretation placed upon them by the draft conventions and recommendations of the International Labor Conferences.

The Covenant of the League of Nations pledged the signatory powers to the improvement of labor conditions by international regulation. Article 23 of the Covenant states :

Subject to and in accordance with the provisions of international conventions existing or hereafter to be agreed upon, the members of the League will endeavor to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend, and for that purpose will establish and maintain the necessary international organizations.

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