Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada will represent 18 million members of co-ops and mutual associations in Canada.
“We will have one voice, we often had two voices,” says Denise Guy, executive director of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada.
English and French-speaking co-operatives share many ideals, but their history and culture is very different.
Quebec’s co-operative movement started in 1900, when Alphonse Desjardins opened the first Caisse Populaire. The credit union now called Caisse Desjardins has become Quebec’s largest financial institution.
“Co-operatives became a way for Quebecers to affirm their own identity, to control their own institutions,” says Mark Goldblatt, a co-op founder who has worked in the field for 40 years.
Many of English Canada’s co-ops have their roots in western Canada.
“… it took a lot of work, about seven years since the initial conversation. And I think the two solitudes might be part of the reason for some people”, says Denise Guy referring to the lack of will for communication between Anglophone and Francophone people in Canada.
Caisse Desjardins has spearheaded the reunion. CEO Monique Leroux says the company’s vision is pan-Canadian.
“Many of the co-operatives in Quebec, Desjardins and others, have already activities across the country. And I would say that people are really quite enthusiastic about this opportunity for working better and more together”, said Caisse Desjardins CEO Monique Leroux