Canada launched the International Year of Co-operatives with 14 events across 14 cities today.
Thousands of supporters of the co-operative and credit union sector in every corner of the country from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia to Iqaluit, Nunavut came together through a live webcast from the national event in Ottawa.
Live from Calgary, Kathy Bardswick, President and CEO of The Co-operators, one of Canada’s largest financial co-operatives, and Canadian representative on the Board of Directors of the International Co-operative Alliance, addressed the webcast.
Calling co-operatives a “values-based alternative,” she said, “in this era, when so many people are dissatisfied with an economic system dominated by profit-driven enterprises, the time has never been better for the promotion and growth of the co-op model.”
In her international role, Ms Bardswick praised the role of Canadian co-operators: “As a member the board of the International Co-operative Alliance, I can tell you that the Canadian creativity and enthusiasm for 2012 is being recognized at the international level. I have heard how people in different parts of the world have taken inspiration from the excellent Canada2012.coop website, and how launch events in other countries are being modelled on this one.
"Kudos to all those whose efforts have helped get the Year of Co-operatives off to such a great start here in Canada, and I encourage every one of you to keep up the good work throughout 2012.
“Through my work with the ICA and other international co-op associations, I have had the chance to learn more about the scope, diversity and importance of the co-op sector in various parts of the world.
“In the developing world, they often play a crucial role in lifting people out of poverty and providing basic necessities of life such as shelter and health care.
“In the developed world, including Canada, they provide goods and services in virtually every sector of the economy, and give conscientious consumers a values-based alternative to profit-driven companies.
“But no matter where they are or what they’re offering, every co-operative is committed to the 7 international principles. They are committed to democratic and participatory governance, and to advancing the social and economic well-being of their communities.”
The Co-operators has contributed $150,000 to the Canadian Co-operative Association to support activities throughout the year. An International Year of Co-operatives flag-raising ceremony is taking place at The Co-operators head office in Guelph, Ontario, where the standard will fly for the duration of 2012. Celebrations are also being held at more than a dozen other Co-operators locations across the country.
A co-operative is an organization owned by its members, who use its services. Co-ops are democratically controlled on the basis of one member/one vote, as opposed to the common shareholder principle of one share/one vote. This ensures that the enterprise is responsive to the people who comprise its membership, rather than to investors whose interest is limited to maximizing profit.
Co-operatives in Canada date back 150 years, and today operate in virtually every sector of the economy. There are more than 9,000 co-operatives in Canada with a combined $370 billion in assets, providing employment to 155,000 people.