Top awards for Ontario sector

Members and friends of the Ontario Co-operative Association (On Co-op) will recognize the accomplishments of 11 outstanding Ontario co-operators, credit union and co-operative organizations at the 13th Annual...

Members and friends of the Ontario Co-operative Association (On Co-op) will recognize the accomplishments of 11 outstanding Ontario co-operators, credit union and co-operative organizations at the 13th Annual Co-operative Spirit Awards event at the Burlington, Ont. Royal Botanical Gardens on Oct. 19.

Co-op Spirit Awards, which was established in 1999 to recognize the contributions made by Ontario co‑operatives, cover eight areas of leadership.

The Distinguished Co-operator award recognizes those who have made notable contributions to the success and evolution of co-operatives and credit unions. Receiving this award are two. Michel Chénier, general manager of La Coopérative Agricole d'Embrun (, is acknowledged for providing administrative stability in agricultural co-operatives in Eastern Ontario. The Ontario Credit Union Charitable Foundation ( based in Stoney Creek, Ont., has used its significant influence and talents to support many programs benefiting communities, including Ontario’s premier youth co-op program, Ontario Co-operative Young Leaders.

The Co-operative Youth Mentor award recognizes the commitment and achievements of individuals or organizations in mentoring youth and supporting their successes. Ottawa resident Gary Seveny who retired in 2007 as President and CEO of Alterna Bank and Alterna Savings receives the honor for lending his significant executive skills to develop professionalism among co-op youth attending the Ontario Co-operative Young Leaders program and helping raise the program’s profile among his peers.

The Co-operative Youth Leader award identifies young people under 31 years of age who have made significant contributions to or within Ontario co-operatives and/or credit unions. Céline Carrière of Russell, Ont. has been a longtime contributor to the Ontario Co-operative Young Leaders program. She is also a member of the education team of Co-operative Housing Association of Eastern Ontario and manages a housing co-op through her employer, L. Simpson Management Services.

The Co-operative Innovator award honors recent co-operative or credit union initiatives. This year’s titleholder is West End Food Co-op (, founded in 2008 in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood. The co-op unites the efforts of various community members who want to improve local food security and public health.

The New Co-operative of Distinction award acknowledges a new co-op or credit union, less than five years in business or in its formative stages, which has made significant social or economic contributions to the community. Receiving the title is Chatham-based AGRIS Solar Co-operative (, dedicated to helping rural people and farmers maintain control and ownership of solar energy harvested on their properties.

The Co-operative Social Responsibility award recognizes those within the co-op sector or credit union system who have demonstrated socially responsible business practices and leadership in the implementation and promotion of sustainable social, economic, and/or environmental principles. Recipient Science ‘44 Co-operative Inc. ( of Kingston is a leader among student housing co-operatives in reducing its environmental impact and educating members about sustainable practices. The co-op has also initiated a Local-Organic Food Purchasing Program for its student meal plans.

This year there is also Special Recognition for the lifetime achievements of two veteran co-operators. Dennis Deters, who will retire at the end of the year as executive vice-president of The Co-operators (, based in Guelph, Ont., has been a visionary in providing education about co-operatives, funds for developing co-operatives, and opportunities for emerging leaders. As chair of an international insurance association, he helped promote microinsurance in developing economies. Penny Bethke, who died earlier this year, is remembered for a lifetime dedicated to co-operative housing and credit unions to increase the wellbeing of all people. She was most recently general manager of Toronto’s Campus Co-operative Residence Inc. (

Outstanding Contribution to the Ontario Co-operative Association recognition is given by the On Co-op board of directors to highlight contributions to the success of On Co-op and its members. In partnership with the Ontario Co-operative Association, York University launched the Co-operative Management Certificate Program ( in 2009, thanks to York University faculty members J.J. McMurtry and Brenda Gainer who will be honored at the gala. The certificate program is the first of its kind in an Ontario university to focus on co-operative enterprise management.

A total of 110 honorees have been celebrated since 1999, the inception of the Co-op Spirit award. The awards banquet is the culmination of a daylong conference that draws up to 250 co-operative and credit union directors, employees and supporters from across the province. Its theme is “Gearing Up,” and is one of the first events in Canada to launch the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives. More than a billion people belong to co-operative organizations worldwide and will be celebrating the International Year in 2012. Ontario has more than 1300 co-ops, with 1900 locations in 400 Ontario communities. Ontario co-operatives employ more than 15,500 people and are supported by a network of 49,000 volunteers.

On Co-op, based in Guelph, Ont., is a resource and common voice for Ontario credit unions and co-operatives, with a mission to lead, cultivate and connect the Ontario co-operative movement. Visit to learn more. 

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