The International Labour Conference
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 23 Mar 1922, p. 102-117


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Moore, Tom, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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The connection of the International Labour Conference with other labour organizations, and with all the other conferences that seem to be held weekly or monthly, in different parts of the world. A general outline, describing somewhat broadly the mentality and the atmosphere which surrounds a conference of this kind, and to give in general language some of the aims and objects which this organization has in view and some of its decisions. The one important revolutionary change in world affairs: changing from those secret methods of arranging international affairs to the method of the open conference where the great democracies are begin established as a result, in many instance, of that catastrophe of 1914-1919. The speaker's conviction that the day of internationalism has arrived. Geneva as the heart and centre of the new movement, and how that is so. The International Labour Organization as a creation of the Versailles Treaty of Peace. Lloyd George's crystallization of the feeling of the time in his famous declaration: "That the world of the future must be a world fit for heroes to live in." Some words from the preamble of Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace, the crux of internationalism. Who is represented at the International Labour Conference, and how they are selected to attend. How voting is done. Matters taken up at Washington, including unemployment insurance and working conditions. The eight-hour day. The Conference in Geneva in October and November of last year; delegates and other details. Delegates and advisors for the employers and for the workers from Canada; restrictions and limitations. The hope for more advisors in the future. Difficulties of such a Conference. The effect of representatives of all known religions and political beliefs. The difficulty of language. Divisions between European and non-European nations. The National and Industrial Conference in Ottawa; what was achieved there. The question of agricultural labour coming from the French Government at the Geneva Conference. 15 decisions reached, eight recommendations and seven conventions at the Geneva Conference. Criticism in the press and the speaker's response to it. Bringing together men of so many thoughts, nationalities, countries, languages and religious as the real benefit of this International Labour Organization. The cost to Canada, with dollar figures.
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23 Mar 1922
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English
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Full Text
THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, March 23, 1922.
AN ADDRESS BY TOM MOORE, PRESIDENT TRADES AND LABOUR COUNCIL OF CANADA.

THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Tom Moore who was received with applause.

TOM MOORE.

Gentlemen,--I can quite well understand that when the average busy citizen reads a series of addresses on the International Labour Conference at Geneva his mind may be somewhat confused as to the exact connection of that International Labour Conference not only with labour organizations, but with all the other conferences that seem to be held weekly or monthly, in different parts of the world. We have the League of Nations and its numerous conferences; the meetings of its commissions on various matters; we have this International Labour Organization formed under Part 13 of the Treaty forming the League of Nations; we have had the Disarmament Conference at Washington; we will have the coming Economic Conference at Genoa. There are the international conferences of the Red Cross and Postal Unions, and so many other conferences

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As the accredited representative of Labour in Canada, Mr. Moore has won for himself, in industrial and economic affairs, a reputation for sound judgment and conciliatory methods. As a representative of Canada at Washington and Geneva Conferences, his ability and quiet dignity commended him to those who differed widely with him as to the best courses to be pursued.

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that I can quite well understand the average busy citizen not being exactly clear as to why the International Labour Organization meets, or what it does when it does meet.

I do not intend to take up any time today in dealing with the exact details of the subject-matter of the Geneva Conference, or of the two preceding ones connected with the same body. That has been published recently by the Dominion Government in Bulletin No. 5 of the Industrial Relations series, which gives in detail the entire subject-matter of the various decisions, known as conventions and recommendations--a convention being a decision which demands a tW07thirds vote of the delegates assembled, and which is rather more obligatory for enactment upon the nations who are part of the League of Nations. The recommendations take the place merely of resolutions, and as their name implies, are recommendations to the governments to consider, and to use their own judgment whether they present them for discussion or otherwise. These have been published in very detailed form by the Dominion Government, and also an outline of the composition of the Conference, etc. I would strongly recommend those who are desirous of getting intimate and concrete information to secure a copy of that Bulletin.

It will be my desire today to give a more general outline, describing somewhat broadly the mentality and the atmosphere which surrounds a conference of this kind, and to give in general language some of the aims and objects which this organization has in view and some of its decisions.

This organization, like all other international conferences that I have alluded to signifies, to me, one important revolutionary change in world affairs. We are changing from those secret methods of arranging international affairs to the method of the open conference, where the great democracies that are being established--as a result, in many instances, of that catastrophe of 1914-1919-are taking their places, with the older democracies, and through open conference, through understanding, through discussion, sometimes through disappointment and compromise, are reaching a commoner level than the one with which they are acquainted. The new methods change that old order under which decisions were arrived at in the dark, and in secret, and where the people were simply ordered to carry out the decisions, whether they agreed with them or not. These conferences, therefore, to me are greatly significant as a world change--possibly not entirely the result of the war, the change was occurring even prior to the war, but nevertheless a great change of our affairs. In surveying the international field generally, I am convinced, that the day of internationalism has arrived, whether we like it or not, and that our problem today is to divert that international spirit into a measure of constructive internationalism, and to avoid it being used by destructive forces which are lying in wait on every opportunity to use them for themselves.

Geneva to me, therefore, is the heart and centre of the new movement. Geneva is the barrier to the spread of the doctrines which would be sent out, if possible, and operated from Moscow. It is that international body that we can consider as the channel for constructive internationalism on a plane which will benefit the great masses of humanity, and not lead them to chaos and destruction. I know there are those today who would oppose measures of this sort; those who wielded the power in the past, who undoubtedly see the power slipping from them and being transferred to other channels; those who are timid, and afraid to step out into something unknown or something doubtful; those who are selfish, and being themselves well-established in comfortable places, see no necessity for any change. There are those also, as I have outlined, who would oppose an organization of this kind because it makes possible compromise and evolutionary progress instead of red revolution. These are the two extremes--the three first that I have outlined as extremes on one side, and the other one extreme on the other side--that are lined up in all the countries of the world today, in two hostile camps, ready to destroy this new organization by retarding its progress.

This organization at Geneva is the organization which brings together the moderate elements of all classes. True, our industrial and economic systems, and our hereditary social system have left us with class divisions-sometimes too often with class prejudices-and these cannot be eliminated if each class is segregated by itself and refuses to meet with the other class. It is necessary nationally, it is necessary provincially and locally, that there should be conference between those who, because of environment, have formed class prejudice or class opinion. It is also necessary internationally that there should be similar conferences, so that the prejudiced nation which builds up by a false patriotism on the assumption that they are superior to other peoples, should meet others on a common meeting-ground, and by getting together learn that there are other people as well as themselves, and that they have something to learn as well as something to teach. That is the reason for my faith and confidence and optimism in the International Labour Organization, League of Nations, and other meetings of this particular kind.

We realize, however, that these organizations are not able to move quite as rapidly as some would desire, for they think that when resolutions are passed, all countries who are signatories to the League of Nations and a part of the International Labour Organization itself, should immediately enact a law to comply with all those resolutions. But I am one of those who expect that within each nation itself the same observance will be paid to the decisions of this organization, formed under Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace, as are paid to other sections of the Treaty which deal with merely material matters such as reparations, division of territory, finance and other things of the kind.

This International Labour Organization is a creation of the Versailles Treaty of Peace. I would like for a few minutes to turn back to that time in Paris when war was ended, and when the nations who had fought together gathered together for the purpose of deciding what the future of the world would be. To paraphrase the American declaration, the world was going to be made "safe for democracy." At that time the war had created its havoc, and the world was reeling from the shock of world-war. Governments were uncertain as to what the future position would be. Monarchies were crumbling. No one could tell exactly what the future would be. In addition to that the entire world was hero-worshipping. They were not worshipping the individual hero, they were worshipping as their hero the common man who had made common sacrifices during that period of the war. That was the spirit which prevailed at Paris in January to March of 1919. That was the spirit which underlay the writing of the Treaty of Peace, and that was the spirit that caused the governments to call into conference not only their diplomatic and military representatives, but also the representatives of the organized workers of their respective countries, for guidance and advice.

Meeting under circumstances such as that, Lloyd George, I think, crystallized the feeling of that time in his famous declaration: "That the world of the future must be a world fit for heroes to live in." I believe that that was the spirit in which Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace was written. Might I be permitted to just read the preamble to that. It is not very lengthy, and I would like to refresh your memories as to what it says

"Whereas the League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal peace, and such a peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice;

"And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled, and an improvement of this condition is urgently required, as, for example, the regulation of hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, provision of adequate living wage, protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, protection of children and young persons, of women, provision for old age and injury, protection of interest of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures,

"And whereas . . ."

And here lies the crux of internationalism--

" The failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve conditions in their own countries;

"Therefore the high contracting parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity, as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, agree to the following:"

And then continues the detailed declaration of the machinery to carry out those declarations. Those who drafted and incorporated in the Treaty high ideals of this kind realized that there would be difficulty in applying them. It was realized that there could be no concrete application except from time to time as circumstances warranted. It was declared that women and children should be protected, and that one day's rest in seven should be given to every worker, Sunday preferred, where it could be possibly included; and those declarations were made fundamental in the Treaty. But in order that these ideals might be carried out practically, it was arranged that there should be permanent annual meetings at which those subjects, and others such a these which might evolve from time to time, might be eliminated as countries brought themselves to the higher level which those Christian ideals express and as they did that, then from time to time the to of the workers, the toilers, the masses of all countries might be gradually improved.

The average citizen seeing the name International Labour Conference, might suppose the correct interpretation would be that it was a meeting of trade unions of some kind. It is not so. This Inter national Labour organization and these International Labour conferences are composed of representative of the workers, 25 percent; representative of the employers, 25 percent; and representatives of the governments, 50per cent. Each member of the League of Nations sent two representatives directly under the control of and representing the government itself; one representative being chosen in agreement with the most representative body of employers organized in that country, and likewise one workers' delegate. In the decisions arrived at, it was essential to have a two-thirds' vote of a convention; they must have the approbation not only of the 25 percent of organized labour, but a good majority of government representatives and of employers' representatives. Therefore decisions cannot be exactly classed as labour propoganda, or as prejudiced by labour, but must be taken as conclusions reached by a broad body representing the general life of the countries from which they come.

At Washington some of the first matters taken up were the eight-hour day, unemployment insurance, etc., and the conditions were such that reaction had not yet become very apparent in Europe. As distance became greater, reaction undoubtedly showed itself earlier, and we have that illustrated by the fact that notwithstanding the representative in Paris of the great Republic to the south of us had been one of the foremost in initiating the League of Nations, the Government of that country repudiated both the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization, concurrently with the first meeting of the American Labour Organization in October, 1919. Organized workers of America, at that time and since, have always declared for affiliation, and for America fulfilling its international obligations in that respect. However, I believe that America itself, all classes in America, have realized the mistake that was made, have realized that extreme reaction of that kind brings extremes in the other directions, and they have realized the necessity of again getting in the European family. This was illustrated by their convening the Disarmament Conference, which has had such an important bearing on the progress of disarmament and on the progress of peace and humanity; and I am optimistic enough to believe that that step, bringing them back into that circle of the European family, will be later followed by them coming back into the League of Nations and coming into the International Labour Organization along with the other countries. We all realize that we need them. We all realize the great work they could do.

But let me, say this in passing, that Canada did not wait to be guided by the United States in 1914, and Canada in 1918 and in 1922, when it is a matter of driving forward for peace, is not going to wait to be guided by any other country in what her duty may be.

In Washington the eight-hour day received the approbation of all delegates assembled except two--both employers' representatives--one from the Dominion of Canada, and one from Northern Europe. Notwithstanding that approval, the eight-hour day has not yet been put into national legislation in very many countries. It has been put into effect in France. It is operating in Germany, exclusively operating in Germany, notwithstanding press statements appearing to the contrary. It is operating in a very large degree in Great Britain; though they have not ratified the agreement, yet over 80 per cent. of their workers are reported as working eight hours a day or less. It is operating in many countries who have not ratified it, and therefore we are in hopes, in view of the decision at Washington coming under stress of appreciation of services rendered by the common people, that ultimately this reform, which is incorporated in the Treaty of Peace itself, will be made part of our national legislation, and part of the legislation of all countries.

Coming from Washington, there was an interim conference of this body held in Genoa, which was an elaboration of the Washington Conference, simply dealing with the application of those measures to seamen. That was composed of representatives of seamen.

The next conference was the one in Geneva in October and November of last year, which I had the privilege of attending. In Geneva there were thirty-nine different countries represented by sixty-eight government delegates, twenty-five representatives of labour, and twenty-four representatives of employers. Some governments had already found it more economical to send only government representatives, and forget the other two parties to the contract. If that is continued it may lead to some disruption of this organization, because if it is to deal with labour matters, labour itself and the employers must be represented, and the solemn obligation of the Treaty must be conformed to in that regard. On that occasion there were only twenty-five worker delegates against ninety-three delegates representing employers and governments. Notwithstanding that, on the seventeen matters on the agenda which came up for decision, agreement was reached on every matter, and a majority obtained, which the workers accepted loyally as progress on this particular occasion. There were also 234 advisors present. Each delegate is allowed a certain number of advisors. These advisors are really substitute delegates because most of the work is done in committees. The delegates for the employers and for the workers from Canada found themselves somewhat hampered in this respect, because of the economy of our Government in allowing only one advisor to each, with the result that being placed on four or five different committees and having to attend the plenary sessions and other meetings which came in between, it was impossible to give that detailed attention to the work of those committees, where decisions were often really reached, that ought not to have been. In future it is to be hoped that our Government will allow at least sufficient advisors-though they may cost a thousand or two thousand apiece--so that the work of the Conference can be carried on efficiently by the representatives of the workers and employers as well as by the representatives of the Government. On this occasion the Dominion Government invited our Provincial Governments to send men as advisors, and we had our good friend, the Hon. Mr. Rollo, Minister of Labour for Ontario, representing the Ontario Government as advisor to the Dominion delegate; Hon Thomas Johnston, Attorney-General for Manitoba, attending as advisor; also Hon. Mr. Galipeault, Minister of Public Works and Labour for Quebec, and his law partner, Mr. Roy, along with him, who received credentials as advisor and took some little part in the meetings of that conference.

The great difficulty of such a Conference can be best appreciated by giving a bird's-eye view of what a meeting of the kind really meant. A body of men as large or larger than this audience, all assembled there. Fortunately one of the governments thought enough of women to send as their representative a woman, but she was the only government representative of the female sex. However, the problems largely dealt with there are such that they should have the attention of more women, and our Government should take cognizance of that fact, and employers and workers should in choosing their advisors, if given sufficient number, include one woman or more in their delegation. There were representatives of all known religions-not only of the various orthodox religions of the Christian church, not only of the unorthodox ones, but of the Mohammedan religion, and all Oriental religions. This had some effect in the Conference, because when it comes to the question of deciding for one day's rest in seven, whilst the Christian church says Sunday is the best day for rest, the Hebrew church hardly agrees with that, and certainly many of the Mohammedan's religious feasts and holidays do not agree exactly with our Sunday as the proper day. However, I believe the Bible is broad enough to say that one day's rest in seven means one in seven and does not signify any particular day on the calendar as to which that seventh might be. Therefore in discussing this problem the question of religion entered into it as to what day.

Then we had men there not only of different colour and different religions, but also of different political beliefs, of all classes of political thought. This had its reflex, to some extent, in lengthening the Conference by discussion of the method that should be adopted for parliamentary procedure. It is easy when we have a meeting here to decide what procedure we shall follow, but when it comes to men of so many different lines of political thought and political procedure, we find it quite a different thing. The European method seems to be that if anyone wants to address the Conference, he should give his name to the Chairman, who, if he thinks that discussion has- gone far enough, before the other's turn comes, it is up to him to take a vote and cut off all other discussion. This sometimes leads to confusion. However, that was only one little difficulty.

We got to the difficulty of language. French and English are the languages which are spoken, and in which the proceedings are published, but each individual -was entitled to speak in his native tongue, if he so desired, with the result that we would sit perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes listening to a very able orator without knowing what had been said or what he was driving at. His speech had to be translated into English and French, and that immediately, with the result that the translation sometimes was not exactly accurate and left a wrong impression, and the following speakers would go threshing out the subject on that wrong impression. This had much to do with lengthening the Conference, and increasing the difficulties.

Then, again, we had divisions between European and non-European nations--a feeling that European nations were trying, perhaps, to control the Conference because of their numbers. The outlying districts of the British Empire, like Canada, Australia, etc., South Africa, the South American nations, China and Japan and India found themselves all lined up on that occasion in what is known as the non-European group, fighting for full recognition of non-European problems and considerations of decisions from a non-European standpoint and viewpoint as well as from a European viewpoint. Then we transformed the difficulties that faced us and the atmosphere which surrounded us. In addition, the workers-and the employers each met in their group to decide on policy, and the fixity of purpose of both these groups was such that it needed great diplomacy to bring about agreement in the ultimate conclusion. But I want to pay a high appreciation to the type of Government representatives and to the Chairman of the Conference, Lord Burnham, of the London Telegraph. Much is to be said for the conduct of these men, and for the tolerance and patience of the workers' and employers' groups in going back and reconsidering. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, notwithstanding this new Tower of Babel that was gathered together, ultimate decision was arrived at and ultimate understanding reached on every question which came on the agenda.

When it is possible to do that in an International Conference of this kind, does it not look weak, does it not look timid to say that within a nation such as ours, with eight million population, we cannot reach agreement on our difficulties if we can get together and discuss them, meeting, not for the purpose of emphasizing differences, but rather for the purpose of finding points of contact? Does it seem reasonable to say that if the workers gathered together to solidify, unite and reach a common conclusion on their problems, and the employers did likewise, that this is of necessity going to lead to hostility? I have greater faith in the commonsense and the common judgment of men of all classes than to believe that that must be the result.

When people ask me regarding our National and Industrial Conference in Ottawa, "What did you achieve there? What is there that you passed, what resolution, that has led to any betterment of conditions?" my answer has usually been, that if there was no resolution adopted, if there had been nothing concrete to show, the very fact that seventy employers and seventy representatives of workers met, and when they left Ottawa were better friends than they were before, was sufficient to justify that Conference. The employers had been prone to believe that the labour men had horns and long whiskers, and no doubt the workers' representatives had been thinking that the employers would come full of diamond rings, and perhaps eating diamonds, or something of that kind, but the discussions around the table and in committees broke down that misunderstanding, and they found at least they had something in common as human beings.

I believe that those who went to Geneva, those who went to Genoa, and those who went to Washington, did go with those high ideals and tried to follow them out; but how much easier if they had a conference of their fellow-colleagues before leaving their country, or if not before, at least, from time to time after, so that they might co-ordinate their activities? If it is a matter of provincial legislation let us get solid public opinion to force the province to act co-ordinately and unitedly. If it is national legislation, then let us meet and consider it in this country, and report back, and thresh out the details of what has been done. I believe that that would be an improvement on present methods.

I just want to refer to one other matter of the Geneva Conference. The French Government seem, during this last year or two, to have been suffering from the process of reaction, and the enthusiasm which existed at the termination of the war seems to have somewhat died out there, I am sorry to say, and we find the French Government coming to Geneva with a proposition that the question of agricultural labour should not be considered as germane to the International Labour Organization itself. The question which was voted on was not as to the eight-hour day in agriculture, but whether any subject pertaining to agricultural labour should be considered. The question first comes before the governing body, which had emphatically said that those who toil in the fields are entitled to the same protection as those who toil in the cities and the factories; therefore the problem was one of human labour, or of development of human life, it should be considered in the Conferences whether is related to city or country. The Conference itself, after some considerable discussion, confirmed the decision of the governing body on that matter, and the French Government then modified their demand by bringing in a proposition that the eight-hour day should not be considered expedient at this particular period. The Conference, as a compromise, by a narrow majority, agreed that an eight-hour day should not be considered as expedient at this particular Conference, but it was left open for the next Conference or any other Conference to consider that question.

Out of the matters, discussed we found there were fifteen decisions reached, eight recommendations and seven conventions, and I think ten of them applied to agricultural labour in its broadest sense.

There has been some criticism in the press, such as--"What does Tom Moore, concerned with industrial workers, know about agriculture? What does Mr. Parsons, representative of the employers, know about agriculture?" We may not know the details of how to sow and how to reap, but I think we at least know that the problem of humanity should be looked after, and should be considered in agriculture as well as in anything else. For one moment look at what those items on the agenda were:--The extension of compensation for injuries to farm workers similar to that for industrial workers. There was the question of the development of educational facilities for farm workers, and in discussing that we found on that occasion that Canada was able to lend some aid, because in the development of agricultural technical education, Canada stands pre-eminent throughout the world today. Further, there were the questions of living conditions, of housing conditions which existed or should exist on the farms; the protection of women and children, the age at which children should be allowed to take part in agriculture, and measures for their protection to give them an opportunity of education; the protection of women during the period of maternity. One of our Western Provinces, I think Alberta, has legislation to give aid to women during the maternity period; so what we have in one province is practicable for others.

My opinion is that the real benefit of this International Labour Organization has been that it is able to bring together men of so many thoughts, nationalities, countries, languages and religions; has been able to break down their national prejudices; has been able to give them a wider view of life; and that the opposition that has developed has been unavailing because it has been based on materialism, whilst progress demands that it proceed from the viewpoint of the development of human beings themselves. That is my opinion. It is my opinion that that organization will continue to grow, and it is my appeal to you to think of and study it, and give it your support, because though the money spent in this direction may seem big in the aggregate, I think the cost of the International Labour Organization last year, to all countries involved, was equal only to the cost of the maintenance of one super-dreadnaught. It is preferable to a super-dreadnaught. It can do more good. The cost to Canada was approximately $200,000, while the cost of preparing for defence against war in the military and naval sense was $14,000,000. If it costs a little more money than it even does today to follow out the membership in this organization, and in the League of Nations, I appeal to you all to study it, and having done so, I am convinced that you will lend your undivided support to the furtherance of the objects and aims which this organization has in view.

SIR WILLIAM HEARST expressed the thanks of the meeting to the speaker for his illuminating address.

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The International Labour Conference


The connection of the International Labour Conference with other labour organizations, and with all the other conferences that seem to be held weekly or monthly, in different parts of the world. A general outline, describing somewhat broadly the mentality and the atmosphere which surrounds a conference of this kind, and to give in general language some of the aims and objects which this organization has in view and some of its decisions. The one important revolutionary change in world affairs: changing from those secret methods of arranging international affairs to the method of the open conference where the great democracies are begin established as a result, in many instance, of that catastrophe of 1914-1919. The speaker's conviction that the day of internationalism has arrived. Geneva as the heart and centre of the new movement, and how that is so. The International Labour Organization as a creation of the Versailles Treaty of Peace. Lloyd George's crystallization of the feeling of the time in his famous declaration: "That the world of the future must be a world fit for heroes to live in." Some words from the preamble of Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace, the crux of internationalism. Who is represented at the International Labour Conference, and how they are selected to attend. How voting is done. Matters taken up at Washington, including unemployment insurance and working conditions. The eight-hour day. The Conference in Geneva in October and November of last year; delegates and other details. Delegates and advisors for the employers and for the workers from Canada; restrictions and limitations. The hope for more advisors in the future. Difficulties of such a Conference. The effect of representatives of all known religions and political beliefs. The difficulty of language. Divisions between European and non-European nations. The National and Industrial Conference in Ottawa; what was achieved there. The question of agricultural labour coming from the French Government at the Geneva Conference. 15 decisions reached, eight recommendations and seven conventions at the Geneva Conference. Criticism in the press and the speaker's response to it. Bringing together men of so many thoughts, nationalities, countries, languages and religious as the real benefit of this International Labour Organization. The cost to Canada, with dollar figures.