Canadian Labor Laws and the Treaty

By Bryce M. Stewart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE CANADIAN LABOR MOVEMENT AND LABOR LEGISLATION

"The sacredness of human personality is more important than all other considerations. Without infinite regard for individual life, however obscure or deformed, expressions of social values are meaningless. Estimates of national power, pride in industrial growth, forecasts of world expansion -- any and all of these which reckon material gains apart from the human losses they involve, mistake for Life itself the coarse texture of but a part of the garment of Life." ( Industry and Humanity, W. L. Mackenzie King.)

IT was not until the early seventies that the trade unions of Canada exerted any important influence in legislation. There were organizations of printers, shoemakers, stonecutters and coopers in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec as early as the thirties and forties and in the fifties and sixties there were shipwrights and caulkers at Kingston, Victoria and Halifax, sailmakers at Quebec and longshoremen at St. John. 1 The shoemakers' union, the Knights of St. Crispin, which had a rapid growth in the United States during the Civil War, organized a number of lodges in Canada in the years 1867-70 in such places as Montreal, Toronto, St. Johns, Quebec, Guelph, Hamilton and Windsor. But the organization lost ground as a result of the cessation of government orders and economic depression after the war and the Canadian lodges were disbanded. 2 There were various other local labor organizations but in the pre-Confederation

____________________
1
R. H. Coats, "The Labour Movement in Canada", Canada and Its Provinces, vol. ix, pp. 292-3.
2
Don D. Lescohier, The Knights of St. Crispin, p. 7.

-66-

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