International Summit of Co-operatives: opening ceremony

Co-operatives demonstrate a fight against inequality, according to Quebec’s premier Philippe Couillard, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the International Summit of Co-operatives.

Mr Couillard, leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, welcomed delegates to the city and highlighted the strength of the global movement. “The co-operative movement is a good example of a fight against inequality,” he said. “Co-ops express social and democratic values. You have a strong agenda at the International Summit. Social prosperity is the ultimate goal here.”

Quebec’s premier, Philippe Couillard
Quebec’s premier, Philippe Couillard

He added: “Quebec’s co-operative movement is recognised around the world for its tremendous diversity, dynamism and ability to mobilise and act. That being said, if we are to maintain our leadership role, we must continuously improve our practices and adapt them to a rapidly changing world. Thus, the Summit is the opportunity to reflect, in the company of respected speakers, on the perspectives for social development, prosperity and job creation through the co-operative formula.”

The 2016 edition of the Summit received a C$1m grant from Quebec’s entrepreneurship assistance programme.

“In Quebec, we are fully aware of the importance of the co-operative and mutual movement for our economic and social development. It is with pride that we support the organisation of this Summit,” said Mr Couillard. He added that the event was a “unique opportunity” for both co-operatives and mutuals in Quebec, and for the international exchange of ideas.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, sent good wishes to delegates on behalf of Canadian prime minster Justin Trudeau. He said co-operatives match up well with the government’s inclusive agenda.

He said: “Over the coming days, you will be coming together to reflect and discuss the power of co-operatives. This agenda fits in well with the inclusive development agenda of the Canadian government. We want development that gives everyone a fair and real chance in life. Co-ops and mutuals have a strength in society to help us achieve this at a local, national and international level.”

Régis Labeaume, the mayor of Quebec, said he had a “great respect” for the co-operative movement. “I am impressed by its vigorousness at a local and global level. By being here in such great numbers and the quality of presentations, this demonstrates loudly and strongly that co-ops are not marginal businesses. They are the business model that can inspire the greatest private businesses enterprises and public institutions,” he added.

Monique Leroux
ICA’s Monique Leroux

During the ceremony, Monique Leroux, president of the International Co-operative Alliance, told delegates: “We are the creators of sustainability in the world. Our world needs more co-operation. Our voice has never been more heard. Our business model is resolute. We should not forget that in the months and years since the 2008 financial crisis, governments were surprised to learn that co-operatives survived. We are not just made for today, but also for tomorrow.

“More than ever, people need co-operation. As co-op leaders we know co-operation is a better way to create sustainable jobs and to mobilise people and communities. We help people to connect with each other and cope with change. Co-operation brings hope to people. Co-operation is about people.

“The world is being changed before our eyes. We have the opportunity of doing better. We are in a world that wants solutions and we have solutions to propose and implement together. We are present in all sectors of the economy across more than 120 countries. Our coop and mutual businesses are contributing a great deal to economic growth.”

Guy Cormier
Guy Cormier, CEO of Desjardins Group

Desjardins chief executive Guy Cormier added: “We are all different. Co-ops and mutuals are different. But we share the same principles; our great strength is bringing together and subscribing to the same values that unite us.”

Mr Cormier also said the world needs to share more. “Nothing is more co-operative than collective intelligence,” he said. “In our world today, issues are complex, but we will win by opening up with others.”

He added that co-ops should be closer to youth. “We should open up beyond our borders and listen,” he commented. “There is no future if it does not include young people. Young people have much to teach us. Like ourselves they believe in equality, equity and fairness.

“By making room and welcoming young people, we give them the means to better know them and better serve them, and prepare our own future as co-operatives. We need more young members in our co-ops.”

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