Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2021-01-05

"Stand by the Union, Mr. Arch": The Toronto Labour Establishment and the Emigration Mission of Britain's National Agricultural Labourers' Union

Document type Article
Author Goutor, David
Journal Labour / Le Travail
Volume 55
Date 2005 Spring
ISSN 0700-3862
Pages 9-35


In the fall of 1873 Joseph Arch, the president of England's National Agricultural Labourers' Union (NALU), embarked on a mission to scout Canada as an emigration destination. He was received with much hospitality in Canada. Large-scale migration of British farmworkers had the support of an extraordinary consensus between the NALU, Canadian political and business elites, and Toronto labor leaders who wielded enormous influence over the labor movement in Ontario. The consensus was the result of developments in British agricultural unionism, Ontario's farming sector, Canada's immigration policy, and the Toronto labor establishment's approach to immigration. However, during the mission, tensions emerged between Arch and the Toronto labor establishment that strained the appearance of international union solidarity. These tensions revealed the treacherous nature of a relationship between labor leaders in an immigrant-receiving country and an organization, even a union, looking to promote emigration.