AN ADDRESS BY W. A. RIDDELL, M.A., Ph.D.
CANADIAN ADVISORY OFFICER AT GENEVA.
7th January, 1927.
The President, COLONEL KIRKPATRICK, introduced the Speaker, who said in part:-I esteem it a great honor to be asked to address this club, for no Club in Canada could offer greater inspiration to any returning Canadian. Thinking of my subject, our minds naturally turn to Geneva, the political centre of the world, the fountainhead of International Cooperation. Here come foreign ministers and diplomats and the chancellors of the nations. Here comes the military experts, the legal authorities, the economists, the technicians on opium, on transport, on international relations, and on many other questions. Here come Bergman and Einstein to promote intellectual cooperation; here come Briand and Chamberlain and Streseman and Benes, and a 'score of other foreign ministers, with the opportunity of settling problems that might otherwise lead to war. What London is to our Empire relations, Geneva is to International cooperation.
The Canadian Government, from the very beginning realized the importance of Geneva. Two years ago they accredited a permanent representative there, and it was my good fortune to have been chosen as Advisory Officer. Our obligations under the Treaty of Peace imply that we shall be represented by delegations at the Assembly of the League, at the International Labour Conferences, both of which meet annually, and at the many conferences that are held from time to time. Our office at Geneva was set up in order to give continuity to the work there. The French Government at last year's Assembly had a delegation of 31, and often the British Government has a delegation of at least half that number. So you may realize how seriously these Governments take the work, how closely they follow it, and how handicapped the Canadian delegation would be if it had not the clerical assistance which our office affords. Our office furnishes full information on Canada, and serves as headquarters for Canadians visiting Geneva who are interested in all problems of international co-operation.
From the beginning Canada has had a very excellent record at Geneva. You probably remember the first bombshell we threw into the gathering, when our delegation proposed that Article 10 should be struck out. We followed that up for four years with delegations representing the governments of all our leading Provinces in Canada, always pressing that they should have an interpretation of that Article. Naturally the European countries tried to shelve it, but we succeeded in getting a declaration that was satisfying to Canada. I would like to refer to the other things in which Canada has taken an active part. I rather think that our more or less complex federal imperial constitution has made Canadians proficient in constitutional matters. I remember that at Washington, where I had the honor of representing this Province at the first International Labor Conference, Mr. Rowell was on the Committee of Admission of Members. He brought in a minority report to which all the other members of the Committee were opposed; yet he spoke to his report with such effect, that the Conference almost to a man supported that minority report. (Applause)
Again in 1921, at Geneva, certain European countries, seeing that the British Empire would have three permanent seats on the International Labor Conference because Great Britain and India and Canada were among the eight states of chief industrial importance, tried to shut us out by moving an amendment that only the great powers should have seats on the governing body, but although in Committee we had been defeated by 20 to 4, when it came, to the Plenary Conference we found we had something over 80 votes for us, some 5 or 6 against us, and probably as many abstentions. (Applause). Thus from time to time our men have been able successfully to defend our interests.
Canada has always taken a prominent part in the social and humanitarian work of the League. We have twice had the honor of having the Presidency of the Fifth Committee, dealing with precedence. Canadians have never tired of trying to impress Europeans in the League that the only method, or the best method, the method that we had tried out with success,-that of Arbitration and Conciliation-was the method to which they should turn their attention far more than to arms. We have shown at different Assemblies that it was exceedingly necessary, if Europe and the world should be at peace, that Arbitration must play the greater part. We have shown that we had a hundred years of peace as a result of this spirit, along a frontier of 4,000 miles. This has all had its effect. I believe the Locarno Treaty and the whole proposal of Arbitration is gaining ground, and the number of treaties that are multiplying almost monthly, owe much to the representations made by the delegations from Canada.
Canada has taken a prominent part with some success, in the economic work of the League. At the end of the War, two main problems confronted us. One was the need of some organization to prevent war; the other was international, economic co-operation the value of which had been demonstrated by The Allies during the War; first among the members of the British Empire, and later by the Inter-Allied Commission.
The last time I was in Canada I tried to show that the League was under a great debt to the British Empire for those fundamental principles of co-operation upon which it was based; those principles of partnerships, of equality, of legislative autonomy which had been developed in Canada and other British Dominions and which had been taken over from the British Empire into the League of Nations. In fact I made bold to state that Canada had made the British Empire, and the British Empire had made the League of Nations; and I have since found no reason to change my opinion. (Hear, hear and applause).
When international co-operation received such attention at the end of the War, it is not surprising that the Allies summoned an Economic Conference at Brussels for the rehabilitation of Europe, financially and economically. It is perfectly true that that conference was looked upon by many at that time as a body that merely met and passed resolutions which were sound in themselves, but of little practical value. But go back over history since that time, especially the history of Europe as well as other parts of the world, and you will find that the resolutions at Brussels did make a profound impression; that they have had an influence on the finances of many countries. That Conference pointed out that it was essential to balance the budgets; it was a commonplace. It pointed out that printing presses must be stopped; yes, we say, a commonplace. But when I went to Europe in 1920 many people seemed to think that about all that was necessary was to continue the printing of money to ensure prosperity. today we have all accepted the gold standard; but at that time many of the leading men of different countries had not accepted it, and the great mass of the people, who had had a certain measure of prosperity during the War, due to borrowings and the printing of money, had to be convinced. The Brussels Conference was called to help to convince them, as Conferences are often called to create a sound public opinion. There has been marked progress, and many countries have now got back to a gold basis. The resolutions of the Brussels Conference have been put into effect in Austria and Hungary with success. (Hear, hear).
In 1921 we had a Passport Conference, and you will note that the passport used in Canada was decided on at Geneva-and it may be interesting to note that Geneva has systematized the passport throughout the world. After the War certain countries in Europe put up great barriers against freedom of trade, not always in the form of tariffs, but by certain red-tape methods that hindered the transit of goods from one country to another. In 1923 the League called a Conference on the simplification of customs formalities. It aimed at publicity. For instance, countries were frequently changing their laws and regulations, and traders did not know anything about those until their goods were upon the line at the frontier and were held up for many months. If the traders had known the formalities they might never have shipped the goods. That Conference advocated the necessity of giving due publicity to customs formalities, the simplifying of them, the expediting of shipment of goods, and the speedy handling of them at the frontiers. At all those Conferences the nations are together; that each man sits there with powers from his Government, which is to all intents and purposes a sovereign state for that Conference; but they must arrive at an agreement. There is no use in passing a convention unless the great majority of people are in favor of it. You must get as much unanimity as possible. If certain countries say, " We are not objecting, but we will never ratify it, " you have to reconsider in order to get a new plan and formula that is more moderate, or that meets that need better. So that at Geneva the art of compromise is a real art, essential to progress in the largest and fullest way.
In the same year we had a convention drawn up with regard to commercial arbitration clauses in contracts. That was in order to avoid needless litigation, and this has been successful in bringing about better conditions.
It was my pleasure last year to sit on another Passport Conference, dealing with passports for people coming into this country. So long as we have a guarantee that if it is necessary for them to be deported to the country that issued their passport they will take them back, that is practically the only reason why we want people coming to our shores to have a passport. If they are tourists we do not require it, and yet naturally the passport was the best thing in order to protect us. We supported it to that extent. I could take a much broader view than most of the men in the Conference, but we were specially interested in transit visas. Many of our immigrants come across a number of countries to get here; the cost of transit visas was great, there also was the necessity of getting them before the immigrants were able to sail. Substantial progress was made to place the transit visas put upon a proper basis.
Probably the most important work in the economic field that the League has undertaken will take place at the Economic Conference which is to be held this year. The Committee has been working for a considerable time on it. While there are many things that could be discussed at a world economic conference, there are only a certain number that it would be wise, in the present state of international co-operation, to discuss. Canada wished to have representation on that committee and secured it. The fact is that Canada's economic importance makes it necessary for the League to give full place to Canadians.
The proposed Conference will deal in general with the world economic position, and will discuss many of the most difficult questions as to economic tendencies which affect the peace of the world. Some countries will say that those questions involve immigration and raw materials; some even going so far as to suggest the pooling of raw materials. I mention this so that you may see some of the problems that face a country with great resources and vast spaces in an international centre like Geneva. For instance, when the question of the agenda came up in the conference, the representative of Italy said that great wars were due to deep-seated causes which must be remedied. He said there were great economic forces such as the forces of population and the necessity of raw materials, and that all those problems were linked together, and formed a living organ. It had been felt that the world was not ripe for dealing with those questions, but it is likely they may come up in the Conference. You can understand how necessary it is, from a Canadian point of view, to follow developments along that line, and I need not stress it.
Under the heading of Commerce the Conference will discuss the liberty of trade; customs tariff and commercial treaties; indirect methods of protecting national commerce, and shipping. Under Industry the situation of the principal industries, the nature of their present difficulties, and the possibilities of international action will be dealt with.
Under Agriculture an attempt will be made to compare the present with the pre-war situation, and to canvass the possibilities of international action with regard to purchasers' and consumers' co-operation. All of those questions are of interest to Canada. That dealing with Agriculture is one of vital importance to Canada, which has made very considerable progress already in that field. Special attention will be given to commerce and tariff policies, especially as they affect Europe. In my judgment, this economic conference grew largely out of the European situation. today Europe feels that she is greatly handicapped in world competition. I discern that feeling in the governing body of the Labor Office where you meet European employers and European labourers. On the other hand, Europe feels that she is not going forward as she ought to go. A recent publication of the League has shown that she has only progressed about 32% in values since 1913, whereas Overseas countries have produced to a much greater extent. For instance, Canada has increased 307%,-the greatest of any country except British Malaya. Japan comes next with 288°0 of an increase, and I think New Zealand is third with 251%; the United States shows 198%, and Australia about the same. That is, the whole increase in export trade is moving to the New World and to countries outside of Europe, and that fact is, attracting much attention and no little concern in Europe. No doubt some leaders have in mind the making of Europe almost into one block as far as trade is concerned; to reduce tariffs so that Europe may, as far as possible, become an economic unit.
Now I might refer to some of the financial work of the League, in the rehabilitation of Austria and Hungary, in the settlement of refugees in Greece and Bulgaria. Many of you are as familiar as myself with the situation of Austria after the War. In 1922 she was becoming almost a public charge. Business men had poured probably $200,000,000 into that country in buying her exchange, in advances on goods for which there was no prospect of return. In 1922 Austria was in a more serious position than at the end of the War. The principles that were worked out at Brussels were then applied, and last year the situation was cleared up, so that the whole system of rehabilitation was practically considered complete. The League withdrew her supervision of the finances, and practically of the legislation of that country, as well, and Hungary is an illustration of the same financial assistance given by the League.
Greece was in a difficult position to some extent. At the end of the War she found herself with about 1,000,000 refugees on her hands. True, she had certain territories in which to settle them, but she had not the money or organization or leadership necessary for re-establishing those people. In a very short period the League undertook to supervise the expenditure of a loan, thereby making it possible for her to secure a loan. Already some 750,000 people have been established on the land. (Applause).
I may add that Canada in a voluntary way has done much for the refugees in Greece. In a big meeting I attended in Geneva where slides were shown on a screen in many of the huts distributing food to the children there were the names of Canadian towns or the name of Canada.
Bulgaria is now in a somewhat similar situation. You heard about the trouble between Greece and Bulgaria last summer. Part of that was due to the fact that in Bulgaria there are many dispossessed people who after the War of 1912 lost their land, which went to their neighbors, and they had to come into the territory with Bulgaria added. Then after the World War Bulgaria was left in a condition of unrest. Probably there are at present 120,000 homeless people in Bulgaria who have caused no end of trouble. It has been thought well to establish those people on land equivalent to the lands that had been taken from them. I understand that a loan is being floated, some of it in New York, to raise $11,000,000 for this purpose. The League has looked over the prospect, and will control the expenditure to a large extent, and no doubt the same result will follow as in the case of Greece.
Now, I would like to speak of international cooperation in the matter of labor at Geneva. For a time I was closely associated with that work. The plan is to hold a conference with regard to labor standards; the protection of women and children; accident compensation, etc. Already some 23 conventions have been passed and referred to different governments. Sixteen of those have been considered already by the Parliament of Canada. Eight have been referred to the Provinces as coming within provincial jurisdiction; four have been ratified by the Federal Government, and two others are being considered at present. The other two required more or less joint action on the part of the Provinces and the Dominion.
When I was here three years ago I tried to get the Provinces of Canada to take some action with regard to the conventions that fell within their sphere. I felt and still feel that Canada has high industrial standards, but we are not getting credit for them in probably one of the best ways to advertise our high standards, through the League of Nations channels. As far as the records show, which are published monthly and sent throughout the world in different languages, in many things we are still away behind, when as a matter of fact, if we would take action, especially in our provinces, we might be almost right in the front, the place where we ought to be. That is the way I look at this subject from a business standpoint. We are selling our goods today in 56 countries of the world and in 29 dependencies. We are tied up all the world around. We want it known, and it is a good thing to have it known, that our goods are produced under the very best conditions. It certainly will not hurt our trade; it will help us. Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have already taken action.
I look upon Geneva, after being there and attending 'all the Labor Conferences, and all the Assemblies, and seeing the work develop, as the world's round-table, and, like the Arthurian prototype, it seems to me to imply much more than mere discussion. It presupposes an honorable and a benign motive. It connotes a certain chivalry of purpose and a determination that the good of all shall be the outcome. It has faith in the redressing of human wrongs. I look upon it as a noble body, worthy of the united efforts of mankind. It has faith that in the ebb and flow of the affairs of nations, as in the affairs of men, there may be a floodtide of practical idealism and realization of the horrors of war and the blessings of peace and co-operation; a time when the nations will fain discard the arbitrament of the sword for the reign of law The present time seems to me to be such a time, and k believe it should be used to the utmost, both economically and from the standpoint of peace. The Temple of Peace is likely only to be built by the generation that knew the horrors of war and have faith in glorious international cooperation. (Loud Applause).
DR. J. MURRAY CLARK conveyed the thanks of the Club to the speaker for his inspiring and thoughtful address.