Canadian co-operative movement moves closer to unity

Canada's two national co-operative associations are moving forward toward the creation of a single, bilingual pan-Canadian organization.  

Canada's co-operative movement has moved forward toward the creation of a single pan-Canadian, bilingual association representing all Canadian co-operatives, credit unions and mutuals.

Delegates to the Canadian Co-operative Association's (CCA) Annual General Meeting in Montreal voted overwhelmingly to continue their unity discussions with the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité (CCCM).  CCCM had originally voted in favour of unity at their 2011 Annual General Meeting in Halifax and reconfirmed their support at their 2012 AGM, which took place just before the CCA meeting. 

Canada has had two national co-operative associations since 1946, CCA, which primarily represents English-speaking co-operatives, and CCCM, which represents French-speaking co-operatives. While CCA and CCCM share office space and work together on a variety of initiatives — including last week's joint Congress in Montreal and the website — they have remained separate organizations. 

Described by leaders of both organizations as "historic", the CCA decision paves the way for the appointment of a transition committee to work out the details of the creation of the new association. A full proposal will have to be approved by the CCA membership. 

While the discussions had been ongoing for some time, there was a major breakthrough in May when CCCM agreed that CCA's international development activities could be included within the new association's mandate. The resolution adopted by the CCA members in Montreal specifically calls for the creation of a structure to accommodate CCA's international development activities within the pan-Canadian organization. Two other international co-operative development organizations, SOCODEVI and Développement international Desjardins, are supported by the co-operative movement in Quebec. 

The unity resolution was moved by Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators, a major co-operative insurance company and one of CCA's largest member organizations. Ms. Bardswick said she was excited by the prospect of a single national association that would be "a truly national strong voice" for co-operatives.

One of the more moving speeches at the meeting was made by Dave Sitaram, an Ontario credit union leader and a former president of CCA. He said the coming together of all co-operators "from coast to coast to coast will build a movement that our kids and our grandchildren can be proud of." 

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