World Credit Union Conference gets under way in Ottawa

About 2,400 credit union leaders from 60 countries are in Ottawa this week for the World Credit Union Conference. 

About 2,400 credit union leaders from 60 countries are in Ottawa this week for the World Credit Union Conference.

It was an opening ceremony befitting a major international event, from an aerial performance by circus artists to a stirring rendition of 'O Canada' by retired Mounted Police officer and renowned baritone Garth Hampson, to a parade of flag bearers representing credit unions from Australia to Zambia and everywhere in between.

Some 2,400 credit union leaders and professionals from 60 countries are in Ottawa, Canada this week attending the World Credit Union Conference, the signature event of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). They are here to discuss everything from anti-fraud programs to mobile banking to using social media to connect with members. And if Sunday's opening ceremony was any indication, the world's credit unions are upbeat and optimistic about their movement's future.

It was a particularly proud day for the Canadian credit union system, which is sharing hosting duties with WOCCU.

Daniel Burns, chairperson of Credit Union Central of Canada, cited Canada's "rich credit union and co-operative history" and the contribution of Alphonse Desjardins, who founded Canada's first financial co-operative in Lévis, Quebec in 1900. 

Peruvian credit union leader Manuel Rabines, the current chair of WOCCU, said "the co-operative model shines as a means of addressing the economic crisis".  His comments were echoed by Canadian Member of Parliament Mauril Bélanger, who was appointed last year as his party's advocate for co-operatives, the first politician in Canada to officially hold that title. 

"Inequality is a recipe for instability," he said, speaking eloquently in English, French and Spanish. "The co-operative principles offer real solutions to the problems facing humanity."

• The World Credit Union Conference continues until July 17.

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