International Year of Co-operatives to be launched across Canada on January 12

United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2012 the year to recognize co-operatives’ global contribution

Vancouver, January 11, 2012 — For the first time ever The BC Co-operative Association, along with other provincial co-op associations and thousands of co-op and credit union members across Canada will be holding a celebratory event on Thursday, January 12 to officially launch the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives. The Anglophone and Francophone co-op movements in Canada are jointly launching the event.

This unique national event will take place at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre from 11:30 to 1:30 am EST, together with 14 regional launch events. The Vancouver event will take place at the Visitor Centre at Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, 5251 Oak Street, from 9:00 to 10:30 am and will include a live webcast from the National Arts Centre at 9:30 am.

Media representatives are invited to attend the Vancouver event, which will feature a special message from Premier Christy Clark, a keynote address from CEO of Vancity, Tamara Vrooman, remarks by MLAs Jenny Kwan and Bruce Ralston and participation from key co-ops and credit unions in BC including MEC, The Co-operators, the Co-op Housing Federation of BC and Modo the Car Co-op. Regional and local co-op representatives will also be available for interviews before, during and after the launch event.

The webcast will include remarks by Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators (live from Calgary) and Monique Leroux, president and CEO of Desjardins (live from Lévis, Quebec) as well as the premiere of a co-operative musical work by the Montreal group Samajam, that will perform live in Ottawa. The webcast can be viewed here.

“At a time when many are searching for constructive alternatives to the economic status quo, co-operatives offer an economic model that puts people ahead of profits”, said John Restakis, Executive Director of the BC Co-operative Association.

In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives, in recognition of the unique contribution of co-operatives to the social and economic development of communities around the world. The theme of the International Year is Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World.

“Co-operatives are about people, so we wanted to launch the year with events in which many people across the country could participate,” said Claude Gauthier, president of the Canadian Co-operative Association. “This year offers an important opportunity to educate the public – and our own co-op members – about the enormous role co-operatives play in building communities, revitalizing economies and creating jobs here in Canada and around the world.”

For more information about the International Year of Co-operatives, including the national and regional launch events, see IYC 2012.


For information on the Vancouver launch, contact:

John Restakis, Executive Director or Donna Balkan, Communications Manager
BC Co-operative Association Canadian Co-operative Association
604-662-3906 613-238-6711, ext. 206

Cell: 778-855-9161 Cell: 613-314-1032

restakis  @

communications @

For information on the National launch, contact:

Donna Balkan, Communications Manager

Canadian Co-operative Association

613-238-6711, ext. 206

Cell: 613-314-1032

communications @

Kita Szpak, National Publicist

Knock on Wood Communications

613-236-8452, ext. 512

Kita @


Co-operatives in BC and Canada: Facts and figures

· Co-operatives have more than a billion members around the world and more than 18 million members in Canada. Globally, co-operatives in 127 countries provide 100 million jobs, 20% more than multinational enterprises.

· There are more than 9,000 co-operatives in Canada, with more than 155,000 employees and more than $370 billion in assets (2011).

· BC’s co-ops control over $30 B in assets. Collectively, BC’s co-ops employ 13,000 people and serve 1.8 million members. BC’s credit unions provide local, community controlled financial services to 1 in 3 British Columbians. Credit unions like Vancity are world leaders in their fields.

· The survival rate of co-ops is almost twice as high as that of conventional businesses. According to a BCCA study of co-ops in BC, over a five-year period 65.8 % of co-ops survive compared to 43% for conventional business start-ups. This research reflects similar findings in Quebec and Alberta.

· Co-operatives operate in virtually every sector of the Canadian economy, including financial services (credit unions), retail, agriculture, housing, health care and energy.

· Co-ops in BC have been indispensible in building up agriculture and fishing industries and providing social services to families and communities. There are more than 125 childcare co-ops in BC offering affordable childcare. Two hundred and sixty housing co-ops offer safe and affordable housing to more than 13,000 families. Health care co-ops provide community based health care to a growing number of communities.

· BC co-ops are innovative leaders and pioneers in sectors like transportation and sustainable energy. Modo, the car co-op was Canada’s first, and largest, car sharing service. Co-ops in BC are promoting sustainable, community owned energy models using wind, solar, and biofuels. Peace Energy Co-op was the provinces’ first community-owned wind farm.

· Co-operatives have existed in Canada for about 150 years. Agricultural and consumer co-operatives were created in the 19th century, and Canada’s first credit union was established by Alphonse Desjardins in Lévis, Quebec in 1900.

· In 2008, the most recent year figures are available, the world’s 300 largest co-operatives generated revenues of USD 1.6 trillion – equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world’s ninth largest economy. Eight of the world’s 300 largest co-operatives are Canadian.

· Some of Canada’s best-known co-operatives include: Desjardins Group (financial services), Federated Co-operatives Limited (consumer); La coop fédérée (agriculture/meat processing); Agropur (agriculture/dairy products) The Co-operators (insurance), Mountain Equipment Co-op (consumer); UFA (farm supplies) Gay Lea Foods (agriculture/dairy products); Vancity (financial services), Co-op Atlantic (consumer), and Arctic Co-operatives Limited (consumer).

· The Canadian co-operative movement works closely with partners in developing countries to help reduce poverty through the creation and strengthening of co-operatives. There are four Canadian organizations which focus on international co-operative development: the Canadian Co-operative Association, SOCODEVI, Développement international Desjardins and Rooftops Canada.

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