Canada and Barbados
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 23 Nov 1978, p. 92-105

Adams, The Rt. Hon. J.M.G., Speaker
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Historical links between Barbados and Canada. The shift in the balance of importance between islands and mainland over the centuries. Trade relations between Barbados and Canada. The Canadian National Steamship Services which linked Canada with the Caribbean. The imbalance of trade in recent years, with statistics. Political links between Barbados and Canada. Tourism between the two countries. Canadian investment in Barbados. The industrialization of Barbados, and Canada's role in it. Immigration from Barbados to Canada.
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23 Nov 1978
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Full Text
NOVEMBER 23, 1978
Canada and Barbados
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald W. Lewis


Mr. Prime Minister, Your Excellency, My Lord Bishop, distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: Those members of long service and longer memories will recall that on October 23, 1958, this assembly was addressed by the first prime minister of the West Indies Federation, Sir Grantley Adams. Twenty years later we are delighted to welcome as our guest speaker today, the late Sir Grantley's son, and the prime minister of Barbados, Mr. John Adams.

Mr. Adams was born in Barbados and educated at Oxford, where he received his Master's degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. During this period he was president of the Oxford University West Indies Association and vice-president of the West Indies Students Union in London. As well as practising law, he was for a period of ten years a B.B.C. and freelance television broadcaster.

Mr. Adams became the General Secretary of his party, the Barbados Labour Party in 1965, and in 1971 he became the chairman and leader of that party. He has been the Member of Parliament for St. Thomas since 1966 and moved from Leader of the Opposition to the office of Prime Minister with an overwhelming plurality in the election of September 1976.

The Prime Minister lists as his leisure pursuits philately, gardening and being a spectator at cricket. This last interest is surprising for in Barbados I understand cricket borders on religion.

Twenty years ago, Sir Grantley said to this club, and I quote ". . . there must be many of you to whom we are no more than a number of small dots on the map, with the names written in microscopic print." Well, Mr. Prime Minister, I can assure you that such is not the case today. Here in Toronto people of your country have enriched the ethnic mosaic of our city, a cricket match is indeed not an uncommon sight in our parks, the steel drum supplants the fife and drum, and the colourful Caribana Festival is as much an annual event as opening day at the ballpark. This is also the time of year when Canadians start to look longingly in your direction--to the sun, to the sea, to the sand. While we may not all have the opportunity to visit your pleasant shores, rest assured that through the appealing pages of the travel agents' brochures and maps, and the accolades of your visitors, we are very much aware of where Barbados is, along with its sunny neighbours in the Caribbean.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured at this time to present to you a great Commonwealth statesman, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr. John Adams, who will speak on contacts and relations between the island of Barbados and Canada.


Mr. President: I am pleased to be able to speak today to members of The Empire Club of Canada and to greet your past officers like Sir Arthur Chetwynd, whom I met during his recent visit to Barbados.

Twenty years ago, on October 23rd, 1958, to be exact, my father, the late Sir Grantley Adams, then Prime Minister of the West Indies, spoke at a luncheon in his honour at this club. He declared that he was almost frightened into declining the invitation to address the club when he learnt that it was composed of 2,500 of Toronto's leading business and professional men. How, he asked, was a mere politician to do justice to such an exalted audience?

That, I must confess, is almost exactly how I feel on this occasion. Like my father, however, I feel sufficiently at home in Canada to face the business and professional leaders of Toronto, if not with equanimity, at any rate with the knowledge that I am speaking to members of a community which has historical and trading links with the West Indies, links that mean a great deal even to the most humble members of our Barbadian and West Indian society.

To start with the historical background--Canada, the Caribbean, and indeed the United States are inextricably linked together as being the areas of the first British ventures into colonial enterprise. Starting with Newfoundland in the fifteenth century and Bermuda a little later, the mariners and merchant venturers of England colonized and populated most of the North American mainland and many of the offshore islands, and came later by conquest into possession of colonies originally settled by France.

The balance of importance between islands and mainland has of course shifted over the centuries. It is a far cry from the days when Barbados, with an area of 430 square kilometres, was considered more important to Britain than New York, New England and Pennsylvania combined, when Guadeloupe, a tiny island in the French Caribbean was deemed more valuable than this great country of Canada. Voltaire at the time described Canada as a "few acres of snow" and the critics pointed out that the latter boasted only of furs while Guadeloupe, like Barbados, produced "that article of luxury called 'sugar'."

King George III also expressed the contemporary wisdom when he too indicated his belief in the superior value of tropical islands as possessions rather than the often frozen wastes of undeveloped Canada. Fortunately, the United Empire Loyalists and the loyal colonies of Upper and Lower Canada and the Atlantic coast did not hold his preferences against him twenty years later!

One must admit that since Voltaire and George III the situation has changed considerably; but over the years, as the relative importance of the West Indies vis-à-vis Canada has declined, a long history of warm and friendly relations has developed between the great Dominion of the North and the territories, first British colonies and now for the most part independent countries of the Caribbean. In the early days these relations were encouraged by the shared history of the colonies or excolonies of the English portions of Canada and the island colonies such as Bermuda and Barbados whose traditions were wholly English in background. The independence of the United States not only drew closer together the remaining English settlements in North America, but also those settlements with the Caribbean and other British colonies in the remainder of the Western Hemisphere.

Trade relations developed early and the Atlantic provinces became suppliers of lumber and foodstuffs, notably salted cod and flour, to the Caribbean islands, taking in return sugar and rum. It has probably been Eastern Canada rather than the United States that has been the Americanizing influence on our use of language in the English-speaking islands, and joint membership first of the British Empire and now of the Commonwealth has been an ever-present factor in our supranational consciousness. Fellow feeling for the Commonwealth was carried to such extremes in Barbados that, until recently, a doctor who was qualified to practise in Canada was automatically admitted to practise in Barbados but one qualified in the United States, other than in the State of New York, was not. Until very recent immigration legislation, a Canadian citizen ordinarily resident for seven years in Barbados qualified as a "native of the Islands," a privilege denied to a citizen of the United States and other non-Commonwealth countries. And even now a Canadian citizen with the appropriate period of residence qualifies, along with other Commonwealth citizens, to vote in Barbados elections. I have a small number of Canadians in my own parliamentary constituency, and most of them give me every reason to believe that they vote for me!

My personal recollections of one of the principal links between Canada and Barbados go back to the days when this great Commonwealth country provided a vital communications service for the Caribbean. I refer to the Canadian National Steamship Services, which for many years linked not only Canada with the Caribbean but the various territories of our region with one another. If I may be pardoned another family reminiscence, my mother's memories go farther back and are even more vivid, for my grandfather--her father--was a member of a shipping firm and agency in Barbados which served as the agent for the C.N.S. line. Whenever one of the "lady boats," as they were called from the vessels' titles, came to Barbados, it became quite an occasion and my mother, even as a young girl, was involved in all the activities that took place. She, along with other school children, made several trips every year to one or other of the islands. And she recalls how many people, from the highest to the lowest in the social scale, availed themselves of this means of travel.

As long ago as 1937 I made my first sea voyage in the C.N.S. "Lady Nelson" to St. Vincent, our next-door island, and was suitably sad five years later when the ship fell victim to submarine attack. The only other modes of inter-island transport of those days were schooners and sloops, which did a yeoman service for those who were prepared to face the hazards of the sea on small sailing boats, but the "lady boats" were the accepted and only steamer service.

The sea communication which Canada for so many years provided for us was perhaps the most dramatic indication of the mutual interests which bound together the Dominion and ourselves. The trading relation which I referred to a moment ago went back to the eighteenth century and was in the classic pattern of two areas trading in complementary goods, exchanging northern products for those of the tropics. The consequent development of a Canadian shipping capacity to service this complementary trade thus owed a good deal to the West Indian connection.

The trade association continued through the nineteenth century, and in the atmosphere of deliberate promotion of Empire trade in the earlier part of our present century, a Canada-West Indies Trade Agreement was signed in 1925. The enabling legislation is still on our statute books in Barbados and makes interesting reading today. The contract was signed, in Canada's case, by the Right Honourable George Graham, James Robb, Thomas Low, William Motherwell, John Ewen Sinclair and Pierre Cardin, Ministers in the Dominion government of the time, and their full names and titles are still to be found in economic statute No. 14 of the current edition of The Laws of Barbados.

Canada has continued to be among the major trading partners of Barbados. An examination of the statistics relating to trade between Canada and Barbados reveals that in 1975 Canada supplied us with BDS$38 million of our imports. In 1976 that figure rose to BDS $40.7 million. In contrast to this, Barbados during that two-year period sold Canada a total of BDS$24.9 million of our goods. In 1977 trade declined slightly, with Barbados importing BDS$38.9 million of Canadian goods and selling Canada BDS$10.7 million worth of local produce in return.

Clearly, we must of necessity express some anxiety over this imbalance of trade which Barbados has suffered, for the trade deficits with Canada during the three years from 1975 to 1977 were successively $25.3 million, $28.5 million and $28.2 million, all in Barbados dollars. The patterns of Canadian goods involved continue to be concentrated on the areas of foodstuffs and manufactured goods, of which budding materials are the most important.

Of our total imports from Canada during 1977, Barbados spent $13.7 million on food, while BDS$13.1 was spent on manufactured goods. The most important imports from Canada included such items as cereal flours, potatoes, salted fish, meat, textiles, wood, paper products and iron and steel bars.

Our exports to Canada have shown a shift of emphasis, with edible molasses and leather gloves being the most substantial items. Unfortunately, traditional exports such as sugar and rum have suffered a decline in the Canadian market in recent years, but we are not without hope that our energetic efforts to regain the market for rum will be crowned with success. And we are taking other steps to reduce this imbalance in terms of trade. To this end our Export Promotion Agency has become a member of the Canadian Importers Association. In addition, our High Commissioner in Canada has undertaken to monitor the interest shown by prospective importers and place Barbadian exporters in contact with relevant Canadian firms and companies.

I have spoken so far mainly about the trade relations which have existed for two hundred years between Canada and our islands in the Caribbean. Relations have not always been confined to exchanges of trade and in the political sphere Canada and the West Indian islands have also many contacts.

It was perhaps during the years immediately before and during the West Indian federal experiment that Canada took the liveliest interest in our political progress and welfare. Canada had gone through the difficult process of initiating a federation ninety years before and this made it the oldest Dominion and at the time the only independent Commonwealth country in the Western Hemisphere. For these reasons, traditional, political and economic, Canada's interest and attention in the 1950s focused on the forthcoming West Indies Federation, which was due to become her Commonwealth colleague on this side of the Atlantic. The interest was widespread. It was shown by government at more than one level, by academic institutions, and by private citizens showing the generosity of spirit and approach that has characterized Canadians in their dealings with us in the Caribbean. I will take one small example of the latter.

One of the most precious mementoes that can still be found in the house where I was born and brought up, is a finely wrought chair that once belonged to Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada. It was given to my father by the Macdonald family and was presented on their behalf in 1957 by Professor and Mrs. Ian Campbell during the Mount Allison University Summer Institute seminar on "Canada and the West Indies Federation." This was of course a period when Canadian interest in the West Indies was at a peak, in the light of the imminence of the coming into being of our Federation.

It was during the same visit in 1957 that Sir Grantley addressed the Couchiching Conference sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Public Affairs and C.B.C. On that occasion he made a strong appeal for the closest possible ties between the West Indies and Canada. The following year he addressed an audience at the University of Manitoba on the subject of the West Indies Federation, and later that same year, October 1958, he was back again in Canada. This time he was on an official visit as Prime Minister of the West Indies whose federal government had been inaugurated earlier in 1958. On that occasion the then Prime Minister of Canada, the Hon. John Diefenbaker, and the Prime Minister of the West Indies signed an agreement providing ten million dollars in Canadian aid to the new Federation. That agreement included the giving of two passenger-cargo ships, the Federal Palm and the Federal Maple, which were estimated to cost six million dollars. These ships represented then and subsequently the only regular shipping connection between the constituent parts of the Federation.

That was the climax of Canadian support for the West Indies federal experiment. And there is no doubt whatever that the dissolution of the West Indies Federation after a short existence of four years was regarded by the peoples of Canada and the West Indies as a tragedy of the first magnitude.

Amid all the ruin that threatened the West Indies at that time one vital thing survived--the warm, personal friendship created during those vibrant years. Governor General Vincent Massey was and remained a good friend of Barbados, and paid frequent visits to the island which he found an ideal place for rest and recreation, for making new friends and renewing old friendships. And he was only one of many who helped to promote close personal friendships between Canadians and Barbadians.

John Diefenbaker also remained a close personal friend of our island and by his charm won the high regard of countless other Barbadians. Like Massey, he grew very fond of Barbadians and up to the present time visits us almost every year and finds the island the salubrious retreat where he can best write his books. He is not only a member of the local Bar of Barbados but actually attends professional and social functions related to lawyers. John Turner is also an honorary member of our local Bar and your present Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, has been a good friend to Barbados and has spent many vacations in the island.

With the passing of the years there has been no diminution in the interest of Canada in the welfare of Barbados and other territories of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Saguenay Terminal has taken the place of the Canadian National Steamships and links Halifax and Montreal with Barbados and Trinidad. Six Canadian airlines, scheduled and charter, are especially busy during the winter season, bringing 80,000 Canadian visitors to Barbados last year. These visitors have not only contributed to the foreign currency earnings of the island but, with characteristic spirit of the Dominion, have helped to promote friendly relations between all classes and sections of our society and have indeed played a notable part in breaking down racial barriers and promoting harmony among all sorts and conditions of our people. This is the benefit the Canadian people, of both French and English origin, have brought to Barbados in the field of tourism, a benefit that has proved of incalculable value to a society that was until recently one of the most socially stratified in the region.

Tourism is of special significance and importance to Barbados for a number of reasons. Barbados has a small, open economy which depends heavily on a number of factors beyond its control and is constantly faced with the problem of equating population pressure with economic opportunity. Tourism is vital to the island's economy as an important source of foreign exchange earnings. Canadians have for some years been the most numerous group of visitors to Barbados and their contribution in this area may be seen from the following figures. In 1974 a total of 230,718 visitors came to Barbados from all countries and of these 77,246 were Canadians. In 1975 out of a total of 221,576 visitors, 75,517 were Canadians. In 1976 the figures were 224,314 and 73,005 respectively, and in 1977 the number of Canadians coming to Barbados rose to a figure of 83,749 out of a total of 269,314 visitors.

This year we are expecting a record of more than 300,000 visitors and to the end of September Canada had already contributed almost 67,000 towards this number. The Barbados Board of Tourism proposes to meet the 300,000th visitor for 1978 and invite him and his party to enjoy their vacation free, and I very much hope that it will be one of our staunch Canadian friends who will win this bonanza.

In Barbados the importance of the industry can be seen in its contribution to employment, for over 10,000 persons or ten per cent of our labour force are employed directly or indirectly in tourism, and in foreign exchange, which should this year amount to over BDS$350 million.

In addition to the Canadians who visit our island, the government of Canada has assisted Barbados tourist development through the Canadian International Development Agency and the latest form of this assistance has been a $10 million loan for the construction of the new Air Terminal Building at Grantley Adams International Airport. This new terminal will help us to meet the steadily increasing volume of passengers and cargo that come to Barbados from every quarter of the globe.

Other benefits from Canada include technical assistance in the form of scholarships for training in hotel management and a grant by the International Development Research Centre of BDS$100,000 to facilitate a study of the economic impact of tourism on the island's economy. Perhaps I should add here that this is part of the overall funding of a regional Caribbean study.

The traffic has not all been one way. Private investment from Canada has found valuable areas of activity in tourist-related fields in Barbados that have been mutually beneficial. Thelevel of Canadian investment in the hotel sector is such that at least ten of our larger hotels, containing nearly twenty per cent of the total number of hotel rooms in the island, are owned or controlled by Canadians. Then there is the overwhelming dominance of Canadian-owned carriers, both scheduled and non-scheduled, in the movement of passengers between the two countries. The importance of the island as a source of traffic to Canadian airline operators may best be shown by the fact that over sixty per cent of the scheduled traffic between Toronto, Montreal and Barbados is carried by Air Canada, and over eighty per cent of all traffic, scheduled and non-scheduled, to and from Canada and Barbados is carried by Canadian-owned carriers.

Apart from the tourist sector there is also much other Canadian investment in Barbados. Canadian banks, insurance companies and construction firms are all established in the island, some of them for a very long time. And it is not too much to hope that, in addition to Canadian firms already established, further industrial development will go forward in Barbados by means of joint ventures in which Barbadians and Canadians can participate, in addition to conventional direct investment programs.

Barbados has been pursuing a policy of industrialization over the past twenty-one years and the strides we have made in this direction are undeniable. In addition to items already mentioned, Barbados now exports a wide range of products such as furniture of various materials, garments, pharmaceuticals, canned and processed meats, cookware, gramophone records, computer components and batteries, to mention only a few, and manufacturing exports now exceed those of sugar and rum, for so long our principal foreign exchange earners in the export field. Significant development has also been made in the area of handicrafts, so important in a tourist economy.

To assist its program of industrialization, Barbados has set up branches of its Industrial Development Corporation in several cities in North America. The corporation seeks to inform businessmen of the attractive investment possibilities in Barbados. One favourable circumstance is the island's stable political and economic climate, and Barbados of course offers the usual concessions such as tax holidays, duty-free importation of raw materials and factory space at low rental charges. We also have a highly literate and industrious labour force as a principal attraction, but we are not one of those developing countries which concentrate on offering cheap labour as our only advantage. For one thing, with Barbados now among the first ten in developing countries in per capita income, labour is no longer all that cheap--something which the government welcomes as evidence of social progress. For another, we are concentrating on skill-intensive industries, and offering the benefit of literacy and discipline to overseas investors who wish to train and use a work force that can respond to opportunity. We are happy to say that this policy has met with success and that in the manufacturing field, by marrying Canadian technology with wage rates that are lower, skill for skill, than in Canada, a number of Canadian firms have been operating in Barbados highly satisfactorily. The best known to us and probably the largest in terms of local operation is the firm of Coopers, which specializes in sporting goods and has been manufacturing ice hockey equipment for export to Canada. The success of its operations is leading to expansion at its Barbados plant, and certainly one of the most encouraging signs in our industrial climate in recent times has been the disclosure by Jack Cooper, who is one of the most active and popular of our overseas investors, that workers on his Barbados production line are as skilful as any in the world and indeed exceed the productivity achieved in his Canadian factories. The success achieved in training in skills by Cooper Canada Ltd. has been matched by the success of computer component operations set up by leading manufacturers from what has come to be known as Silicon Valley in California. These companies too have found that our people possess very high capacity for training, and very significant expansions are also in prospect in their operations.

The traffic in skill is not confined to activity in our island itself, since Canada has been for some years a magnet for Barbadian would-be immigrants and migrant workers.

Barbadians continue to secure employment on a seasonal basis with Canadian farmers, though, regrettably, the level of such employment has declined since 1975. Happily, Canada's Minister of Employment and Immigration, when he visited Barbados in March this year, signed a Memorandum of Understanding along with our Minister of Labour, providing for an annual intake of agricultural workers and an extension of the scheme to other than traditional occupations. It was also agreed that every effort would be made not to reduce the total number of workers to be engaged below those engaged during the period 1974-76.

In addition to migrant workers, Canada has also absorbed considerable numbers of semi-permanent and permanent immigrants from Barbados in the last ten to fifteen years. All professions and occupations are represented, and we are amused when we read of Europeans complaining of the "brain drain" to North America when we discover that there are many more, perhaps twice as many, Barbadian doctors in North America than there are in Barbados. Barbadians teach at your Canadian universities, work in business and in the professions, are employed as engineers, secretaries and in other areas where Canada needs skills. Our population pressures are high, although the rate of growth is now at about the same level as that of most developed countries, less than one per cent per annum and falling steadily. It is therefore with ambivalence that we view any exodus from the island; on the one hand we are glad to have emigration as an outlet for our problems of unemployment--running at twelve per cent at last count this year. On the other we are sorry to lose our skilled citizens to the attractions of the higher rewards of North America.

Nonetheless the traditional friendship of Canada and Barbados is probably cemented by the existence of so many of our citizens among you, enjoying all that is good and decent

and progressive in Canadian society. It should come as no surprise therefore that many Barbadians at home see the future of our country firmly bound to the progress made by your great country.

I have spoken at some length about areas of technical and other co-operation between our two countries and the social links that have united us. It should now be clear to all that countries which differ so vastly in size as Canada and Barbados do not necessarily construct their international policies upon mere geographic considerations. If this were so, I fear that Canada and Barbados would remain permanently divided.

But instead, Canada continues to be sympathetic and understanding towards Barbados' situation. Canada prefers to translate its progressive thinking into positive contributions towards our needs as a developing nation.

The stage of international politics is, however, crowded with many small nations who seek to project themselves upon the world. Old values have given way to the new dimensions of national economic development more so than ideological kinship, important though this often is. For its own part Barbados is not the least bit interested in international posturing. Rather, we are concerned with enhancing the quality of life of our citizens and reinforcing relationships, such as we enjoy with Canada, which have proved to be of mutual benefit.

The role of the powerful nations must now therefore be redefined to recognize the chasm that divides those who have from those who have not, and must seek to inspire a new concept of international relations which can lead to a new and better world for present and future generations.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Sir Arthur R.T. Chetwynd, Bt., a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Canada and Barbados

Historical links between Barbados and Canada. The shift in the balance of importance between islands and mainland over the centuries. Trade relations between Barbados and Canada. The Canadian National Steamship Services which linked Canada with the Caribbean. The imbalance of trade in recent years, with statistics. Political links between Barbados and Canada. Tourism between the two countries. Canadian investment in Barbados. The industrialization of Barbados, and Canada's role in it. Immigration from Barbados to Canada.