Canadian co-op movement hands out its annual awards

Among those honoured at Co-operative Congress was Kathy Bardswick, for a lifetime of service to co-operation

Canada’s Co-operative Congress has honoured organisations and activists who made a substantial contribution to the country’s co-operatives and mutuals.

The awards, handed out by trade body Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC) on 20 June in Victoria, British Columbia, were chosen by the awards committee from nominations by member co-ops.

The Award for Co-operative Excellence went to Kathy Bardswick, former CEO of the Co-operators, who retired in 2017 after 39 years of service. The award honoured Ms Bardswick’s work to promote co-operative values nationally and internationally, and with the International Co-operative Alliance. She is also credited as a driving force in launching the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund.

The Emerging Co-operators Award, for outstanding young co-operators under 35, went to Julien Geremie, deputy executive director of the Conseil de la coopération de l’Ontario (CCO). Mr Geremie joined the CCO in 2019 and has been with the Ontario co-operative movement ever since. He served as vice-president of Coopérative funéraire d’Ottawa, organised the International Year of Co-operatives in Ontario in 2012 and is a board member of the Coopérative radiophonique de Toronto. He was a member of CMC’s Emerging Co-operators committee in 2014 and is involved in exploring new ways of thinking about co-operative education.

Dairy co-op Gay Lea Foods received the Large Co-operative of the Year Award, which recognises a co‑operative or mutual for its contribution to the co-operative and mutual sector in Canada and/or internationally.

Founded over 60 years ago, the co-op was honoured for its commitment to co-operative education and excellence in governance training, as well as trying to keep employment in the communities where its members live. In 2017 the dairy business set up a collaborative, year-round Co-operative Education Centre at the Gay Lea Dairy Museum in Aylmer, Ontario.

The Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia (CHFBC) took home the Small Co-operative of the Year Award, which goes to a co-operative having an outstanding community impact.

CHFBC is working to address the affordable housing crisis in the region by promoting the community land trust model. To achieve this, the federation is collaborating with other co-operative and not-for-profit housing providers, social impact lenders and investors and government bodies.

CMC president Doug Potentier said: “It is my honour to recognise the incredible work done by these individuals and co-operatives to advance the co-op movement. The contributions we celebrate today, both individual and collective, are the substance and power of the change this movement brings to our communities, to Canada, and the world. Bravo to all.”

Jim Bettcher, chair of the awards committee, added: “It is notable that, even with the wonderful group of award winners here today, there are still other worthy individuals who are also deserving of recognition. It was our pleasure to read all the compelling nominations and select the outstanding group we have with us today. Congratulations to all.”

A national, bilingual association for co-operatives and mutuals in Canada, CMC represents the country’s 8,000 co-ops and their 18 million members.

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