CEO of Ukrainian Credit Union (Toronto, Canada)


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Academic conference: “The Ukrainian cooperative movement”

Opening: «A spiritual approach to economic and social life: the Ukrainian cooperative movement»

June, 13


The Development of Cooperatives and Credit Unions in Canada: The Ukrainian Canadian Experience



I have been asked to speak today about the cooperative experience of the Ukrainian Canadian community. I will not purport to provide you with an exhaustive analysis, but rather more of an outline by which I hope to familiarize you with the origins of the Canadian cooperative movement, the place of the Ukrainian Canadian movement within it, and how the Canadian experience compares and contrasts with the movement in Ukraine. I will also reflect upon the place of cooperative principles in affluent societies like Canada and the question of what the future of the Ukrainian Canadian credit unions might hold. With respect to the last point, I will not be so much as providing answers as raising the questions that we in Canada have yet to answer.


At the outset, I would like to also mention that because it is credit unions rather than other cooperatives that have dominated the Ukrainian Canadian cooperative experience, the emphasis in my remarks will be on them. As well, due to the fact that it was primarily Ukrainian immigrants from west Ukraine who settled in Canada, the comparisons I draw between Canada and Ukraine, are related to the cooperative movement in Galicia (Halychyna) prior to World War II.

Philisophical Roots of the Canadian Cooperative Movement

a. Rochdale Principles

The roots of the Canadian co-operative movement can be traced to those ideals originally advanced by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, a group of weavers who being displaced by the industrial revolution, established their cooperative store in England in 1844 to provide cheaper foodstuffs for its members.[1] It was the leaders of this cooperative that articulated the “Rochdale Principles” which remain the foundation for the modern day Statement of the Co-operative Identity last updated by the International Co-operative Alliance (Міжнародний Кооперативний Альянс) in 1995[2]. The seven main principles of the Statement are: Voluntary and open membership; Democratic member control; Member economic participation; Autonomy and independence; Education, training and information; Cooperation among cooperatives; and, Concern for community.[3]


While the ideals of the Canadian co-operative movement may be traced back to the Rochdale Principles, various types of cooperative activity in the country was inspired by a variety of groups, and these principles found expression through different centres of influence with differing points of view. Two that stand out аre the trade union or labour movement, and the lay people and clergy of the Roman Catholic church who saw in cooperation, a Christian response to poverty and economic exclusion[4].

b. Alphonse Desjardins


In 1892, a French Canadian named Alphonse Desjardins was named the official recorder of debates in the House of Commons, the lower house of the Canadian Parliament. From his seat at the large clerks table located in front of the Speaker’s chair in the Commons, he had ample opportunity to listen to Parliamentary debates and the speeches in which various members of parliament repeatedly raised the plight of their constituents who, not having access to credit on reasonable terms, would borrow from money lenders at usurious rates of interest and encounter financial catastrophe. Moved by the stories of economic hardship, Desjardins set out to see if there was a way to provide the average labourers and farmers with credit at reasonable terms[5]. Through his research of European cooperative models (e.g. Raiffeisen), and inspired by his reading [6]of “The People’s Bank” by the English economist and cooperator Henry W. Wolfe, and Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on Capital and Labour Rerum Novarum[7] which focused on the need to redress working class poverty, Desjardins established the first caisses populaire (literally “narodna kasa” in Ukrainian) in Levis, Quebec in 1901. With support from all levels of Quebec’s Roman Catholic clergy, the church parish became the central organization around which caisses populaires were to spread across the province, and the network of caisses would eventually grow into what is today the financial institution with the largest market share in Quebec.


Desjardins’ caisse populaire functioned in a legislative vacuum until 1906, when he succeeded in having the Quebec government pass the Quebec Co-operative Syndicates Act which allowed for the incorporation of the financial cooperatives as limited liability companies. Until that time, Desjardins had been personally responsible for the caisses’ debts. [8]. Attempts a year later, in conjunction with coop pioneer George Keen of Ontario, to have federal cooperative and credit union legislation passed failed due to lobbying efforts by the Retail Merchants Association of Canada who felt threatened by those portions of the proposed legislation that would permit the establishment of co-operative stores.[9]


The legacy of the failure of federal credit union legislation to pass over one hundred years ago remains with us today in Canada. Unlike countries like the United States and Ukraine where there are national credit union laws, Canadian credit unions are regulated by the province in which they are located, and there is no federal credit union act that would enable a single credit union to operate branches across the country. The exception is for central credit unions, organized along provincial lines as the central financial facilities and trade associations of individual credit unions. The centrals are partly regulated by the federal Cooperative Credit Associations Act which also permits limited retail arrangements among credit unions in different provinces[10].


Alphonse Desjardins would go on to help establish the first credit union in the United States based on a French-speaking migrant community from the Canadian Maritimes settled in New Hampshire. He was also was a key contributor to establishing a fledgling credit union movement in Ontario before it was wiped out by World War I[11]. Fortuitously, the United States movement that Desjardins helped found, would later assist with the revival of credit unions in Ontario in the 1920’s and 1930’s[12].

c. Antigonish Movement


The Canadian co-operative movement received a large boost in the 1930’s from two innovative Roman Catholic priests Father Jimmy Tompkins and Father Moses Cody who saw in co-operatives and Christian activist response to the economic hardship among the common people caused by the Great Depression. These two giants of Canadian co-operation founded The Antigonish Movement, named after the town in the Canadian Atlantic province of Nova Scotia where Father Cody persuaded the Extension Department of the catholic-founded St. Francis Xavier University to establish cooperative adult education programs for fishermen, farmers and miners. The programs served to kick start a series of fishing and housing cooperatives, and especially credit unions in the Canadian maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.


The philosophy of the Antigonish Movement so eloquently set out in Father Coady’s book, Master of their Own Destiny: The Story of the Antigonish Movement of Adult Education Through Economic Cooperation, was that the economically disenfranchised, no matter what their background or capabilities, could lift themselves out of poverty through study and application of concrete self-help measures[13]. The Antigonish Movement drew on the ideals set out in the Rochdale Principles, Catholic social teaching, the caisses populaires established by Alphonse Desjardins, and the U.S. credit union movement,[14] and its innovative approach of adult co-operative education came to be applied across the rest of English-speaking Canada leading to the spread of a large number of cooperatives, and credit unions in particular, throughout the rest of the country[15]. The cooperative teachings of the Antigonish movement spread westward, in part, through the network of Roman Catholic clergy and religious orders from the Diocese of Antigonish, who were sent to oversee and serve the new western Canadian dioceses being established in the 1930’s[16].

Canadian Cooperatives


Having looked at the philosophical roots of the Canadian cooperative movement, let us proceed to look at some of the cooperatives themselves. Today in Canada there are numerous cooperatives including: housing, building, worker, retailer, consumer, utility, credit and agricultural, as well more recent varieties like consumer health care coops. I will not undertake here to discuss all of them, but rather highlight some of the more prominent examples.

a. Producer Cooperatives – dairy; wheat pools

Agricultural producers in Canada established some of the most successful cooperatives in Canada. In fact, after many failed attempts due to create various forms of cooperatives[17], be they stores modeled on British precedents by those associated with the labour movement, or utopian settlements in various parts of the country, it was the dairy farmers of Canada who starting in the 1860’s achieved sustainable cooperative ventures[18]. These creamery cooperatives would of course have their parallels in the “maslo-soyuz” cooperatives in Ukraine.

Among the most prominent agricultural cooperatives were those organized by grain farmers who by the early part of the 20th century had become unhappy with the limited channels for marketing their products and the resulting unsatisfactory prices they were receiving. Starting in 1919 they began to organize “cooperative pools” through which member farmers agreed to sell all of their grain in exchange for dividends reflecting the quality of the grain they contributed to the pool. This led to the establishment by Canadian prairie grain farmers of cooperative grain elevators in Saskatchewan in 1923, followed by Alberta the same year, and Manitoba in 1924. The elevators were transfer points where grain trucked in from farmers would be collected and stored for eventual collective marketing and large scale transportation to markets via rail. The need for capital to modernize facilities and poor economic performance eventually led to the transformation of these once might symbols of the Canadian cooperative movement into publicly traded corporations starting in the mid-1990’s, and they have subsequently all been amalgamated into a non-cooperative business corporation. There are no doubt many lessons to be drawn from the sad ending of this chapter in Canadian cooperative history, but the most obvious perhaps is that cooperatives are not exempt from having to meet the test of economic viability. Nonetheless, the wheat pools made a significant contribution to the development of western Canadian agriculture and the economy of this region.

b. Consumer Cooperatives


The first wave of sustainable consumer cooperatives in Canada arose in the period from the 1860’s to 1926 in the form of stores for the working class, organized primarily by its skilled labour segment in mining communities which were characterized by strong local bonds. These cooperatives drew on the cooperative experience of European immigrant workers, and especially that of British immigrants who knew the Rochdale model from back home[19]. Growing areas of industrialization in Canada, primarily in Ontario, also spawned consumer cooperative stores upon the initiation of trade union groups that while following the Rochdale approach, were inspired by socialist and even sometimes Marxist motivations[20]. These however mostly fell victim to the economic depression of the early 1920’s, though some continued to operate until the 1970’s[21]

Though not quite as large as the mining and industrial consumer cooperatives, the Antigonish movement and its precursors, together with government, also stimulated the organization of consumer cooperatives among small farmers in the Maritimes to improve their purchasing power on agricultural inputs. [22] In Western Canada, the impetus given the cooperative movement by grain marketing cooperatives[23] and the mechanization of farming drove input costs higher stimulated the creation of farm supply consumer cooperatives[24]. An accomplishment of note was the organization in 1935 of an oil refinery cooperative near Regina, Saskatchewan, through the efforts of eight farmer consumer cooperative whose goal was to overcome a long time problem in obtaining a reliable supply of reasonably priced petroleum products.[25]





c. Credit Unions


Having already touched on the beginnings of credit cooperatives in Canada we know that the credit unions of the Desjardins Movement were based on church parishes. In the Canada’s Atlantic provinces, while familiar with the credit union movement in Quebec[26], the leaders of the Antigonish Movement drew on Roy F. Bergengren, the United States credit union movement organizer, whose 1931 address to the Rural Conference of Nova Scotia, spurred the organization to introduce credit unions in the province. With the drafting expertise of Bergengren, credit union legislation was enacted in 1932, and the first two credit unions (one rural, the other in a mining town) were incorporated in 1933[27]. The movement and its method of adult education through study clubs spread to neighbouring provinces and eventually to Ontario and the four western Canadian provinces.


In Ontario, the development of credit unions was multifaceted and somewhat different with the bond of association being key. While there were some community based credit unions, most were based on Catholic church parishes or on a workers place of employment like factory, government office etc. On the Canadian prairies a mix of community, farmer coop sponsored, and closed bond employee-based credit unions emerged, and the credit union legislation developed in the Maritimes was adapted to the three provinces. In Canada’s most westerly (and often most exotic) province British Columbia, the formation of credit unions came from a variety of sources, the first of which was a utopian cooperative association called The Army of God whose members formed a credit union on the urgings of Japanese Christian cooperative leader Toyohiko Kagawa who toured Canada in 1936, the Ontario cooperator George Keenan, and one of its own members who had visited Nova Scotia and become familiar with credit unions[28]. The British Columbia movement would find active support from the Roman Catholic Archbishop William Mark Duke of Vancouver, a personal friend of Father Moses Cody, under whom the Pacific Cooperative Institute was founded in 1936 to promote coop and credit union study clubs[29]. Also from fishing cooperatives, various employee groups like civil servants and transit workers, Protestant churches promoting the Social Gospel, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation political party, and the University of British Columbia who wanted to join leading universities across Canada promoting adult education as way to improve the lot of working people[30]. The introduction into Canada of loan life insurance on member loans by CUNA Mutual of the United States credit union movement in 1935 was another milestone that encouraged the growth of Canadian credit unions.

The 1940’s ushered in the creation of province wide trade associations and central financial facilities for credit unions in all provinces, following smaller regional chapters and associations that were organized earlier on for group buying and mutual assistance. These second tier institutions would would evolve into what are today sophisticated financial organizations providing liquidity support, loans and numerous treasury and other financial services to their member credit unions, either directly, or through joint enterprises among themselves and networking arrangements with third parties.

Ukrainian Canadian Cooperatives


Having laid out the Canadian context in which Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives were to be founded, I will now review their birth and development, and their ideological roots in western Ukraine.


When I speak of the Ukrainian Canadian cooperative movement, I am speaking about those cooperatives and credit unions that were specifically established along Ukrainian ethnic lines. To be clear, based on the proportion of Ukrainians in the overall Canadian population[31], the involvement of Ukrainian Canadians in the Canadian cooperative movement overall, likely significantly exceeds those involved specifically in the Ukrainian Canadian movement. This is supported anecdotally when one reviews the names of directors and members of cooperatives, particularly in western Canada. [32]


The organization of first Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives and credit unions came about through the efforts of Wasyl Topolnytsky, a native of Ivano-Frankivska Oblast born in 1893[33]. After completing high school and serving in the Austrian army during WWI, he went on to complete his economic studies in Czechoslovakia, and then immigrated to Canada in 1927. Being a Ukrainian patriot with a strong social conscience, Topolnytsky in 1930 organized his fellow members in the Winnipeg Branch of the Ukrainian War Veterans Association of Canada, themselves former cooperatives members in western Ukraine[34], into the first Ukrainian Canadian cooperative store which they named “Kalyna” . The purpose of the coop was to purchase and retail books from Ukraine[35].

The UWVA helped spawn a broader pro-nationalist organization called the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada (UNF), founded in 1932. The UNF had strong ties with the underground Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) back in Galicia whose economic program recognized the importance of cooperatives and foresaw a prominent role for them in a future independent Ukrainian state[36]. The founding constitution of the UNF included the economic advancement of Ukrainians in Canada through the organization of cooperatives as one of its objects, and with Wasyl Topolnycky now as a national headquarters employee in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan[37], the UNF carried on the cooperative development started by the UWVA.


In 1939 in Saskatoon, Topolnycky organized “Nova Hromada”, the first Ukrainian Canadian credit union[38], based on members of the Saskatoon Branch of the UNF. A year later in 1940, Topolnytsky repeated the exercise and worked with members of the Winnipeg Branch of the UNF to found Carpathia Credit Union. A member of Nova Hromada, Mykhajlo Babij, would in turn move east to Ontario where his cooperative educational efforts resulted in another five Ukrainian credit unions being organized in that province from during the mid-1940’s, including the one of which I have the privilege of being CEO today. A UNF-sponsored credit union was also established in Edmonton, Alberta[39]. Later credit unions and cooperatives would be sponsored by other organizations like Canadian chapters of Prosvita and Narodnyj Dim and church parishes., Community based credit unions in those areas with concentrated Ukrainian populations were also founded in Manitoba through the mid-1940’s and early 1950’s and these were, in time, absorbed by the broader Canadian cooperative movement. Post World War II Ukrainian emigration not only served to greatly strengthen existing credit unions, but also lead to the creation of many others in Ontario and Quebec, based on organizations like Narodnyj Dim, Prosvita and both Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox church parishes[40]. By 1959, there were 34 Ukrainian Canadian credit unions in Canada[41].


In terms of non-financial cooperatives, only partial information is available, though we do know that in addition to Winnipeg, there were other consumer cooperatives in cities like Regina, Saskatchewan, and Sudbury and Thorold, Ontario, as well as glove manufacturing coop in Winnipeg. At least some of the coops were linked to or created at the initiative of credit unions[42]. Of these, there are two non-financial cooperatives remaining today: the Ukrainian Co-operative in Regina, Saskatchewan, a consumer butcher and grocery store, with a Ukrainian book and gift division, and Wasyl Topolnycky’s first effort, the Kalyna Ukrainian Co-operative in Winnipeg, Manitoba mentioned above which continues to sells Ukrainian books, gifts and facilitates the sending of parcels oversees. Both remain going concerns, with the Regina coop undergoing a large expansion to its store in 2007, and recently introducing imported food products from Ukraine.


Attempts to organize individual Ukrainian Canadian financial and non-financial cooperatives into umbrella organizations started in 1949 with the establishment of an ideological-coordination centre in Winnipeg called Kooperatyvna Hromada at the initiative of Wasyl Topolnycky and with the support of post World War II Ukrainian immigrants who had been part of the cooperative movement in Ukraine[43]. In 1954 the coordinating committee of Ukrainian credit unions in Toronto was established. Eventually Ukrainian Canadian cooperative coordinating bodies in the west and east united to form the Council of Ukrainian Credit Unions of Canada in 1975. They would become part of the Ukrainian World Cooperative Council founded in 1973.


More recently, significant immigration of Ukrainians from Poland in the 1980’s and from Ukraine starting in 1991 have also boosted the membership and assets of Ukrainian Canadian credit unions. Although given the mature stage of existing cooperatives, these newest waves of immigration have not lead to the organization of new ones, I can say anecdotally that they were one of the primary reasons behind the significant growth of many Ukrainian Canadian credit unions in last 20 years. Recent Ukrainian immigrants still present a large potential market, as most have not joined credit unions.[44]


When we look at the establishment of Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives we see that through individuals who immigrated to Canada there was, in essence, a transplantation of the Ukrainian cooperative experience from western Ukraine and a grafting of it onto the Canadian Co-operative movement. Wasyl Topolnycky and others like him typified this phenomenon. By the time Ukrainian cooperators came from Galicia, the Canadian movement had already established a legislative infrastructure and would soon move towards the development of central cooperatives to service local ones. Ukrainian cooperators immigrating to Canada apparently found little trouble adapting the co-operative bank model known in Europe, to the credit union model developed in North America characterized by full local control and providing service only to members[45].


Philisophically, the Ukrainian and Canadian cooperative movements drew from the same traditions. For example, elements of the Antigonish and Desjardins movements in Canada had their earlier parallels in Ukraine. In his pastoral letter of of 1904 entitled “The Social Question”, Metropolitan Andrej Sheptyckyj, who was also inspired by Pope Leo XII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, engaged clergy to support the efforts of the faithful to organize in cooperative graineries and stores[46]. In conjunction with branches of the Prosvita Society, which has been described as the “mother” of all Ukrainian culturual and economic organizations in Galicia[47], the Ukrainian Greek Catholic clergy played a leading role in the organization of consumer, producer and credit cooperatives in western Ukraine[48].


The prominent role of secular community organizations in the founding of Ukrainian Canadian credit unions and cooperatives in Canada, echoed the role of the secular-oriented populist intelligentsia of Galicia in the 1880’s in establishing a strong cooperative movement[49]. The role of Ukrainian Canadian churches was not, however, as prominent in the founding stages of Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives, as the Greek Catholic church had been in Galicia[50].


Of course, the cooperative movement in Galicia had more than just strictly economic and social goals. Indeed, the cooperative movement was a building block in support of the Ukrainian national movement,[51] and the eventual achievement of Ukrainian statehood. These aspirations were shared by the founders of Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives.


Despite common philosophical underpinnings and national aspirations between Ukrainians in Canada and in the homeland, there was of course, no independent Ukrainian state to be built in Canada. However, the national sentiment of the founders of the Ukrainian Canadian cooperative movement could and was channeled into building an economically strong Ukrainian Canadian community, preserving its cultural identity in Canada, and supporting the cause of Ukraine’s freedom and independence. The last of these ended up being the motivational force for the involvement of Ukrainian Canadians in credit union development projects decades later.


Canadian and Ukrainian Canadian Cooperatives Today

a. Statistical Summary

According to the Government of Canada Co-operatives Secretariat[52], there are over 8,800 cooperatives of all types, including credit unions, holding $210 billion in assets. They directly employ some 150,000 people, and indirectly employing another quarter million independent producers whose livelihood depends on the marketing and production cooperatives. On average, some 40% of Canadian belong to a cooperative with the highest participation rates in Quebec at 70% (primarily to Desjardins caisses populaires membership) and in Saskatchewan at 56% of that province’s population which, incidentally, has the highest percentage of citizens in Canada that claim Ukrainian origin.

Excluding financial cooperatives, the sector has an annual turn over of almost $30 billion, with fifty of the largest coops accounting for approximately a quarter of this business volume and 9.4% of all Canadian coop assets[53]. As well, seven of the 500 largest companies in Canada being cooperatives. Perhaps of particular interest to Ukraine and the need to advance the economic growth of rural areas to more closely match those in the cities, agricultural marketing and farm supply co-operatives account for 46% of all Canadian non-financial co-operative revenues[54]. In terms of sustainability, cooperatives in Canada have been found to be twice as likely to make it through the first five years after start up than non-cooperative companies.


As far as Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives are concerned, as of December 31, 2006 there were ten credit unions with a total of 29 branches, and the two previously-mentioned active cooperatives (Kalyna in Winnipeg, and the Ukrainian Cooperative in Regina). Combined, the membership of all the credit unions stood at 70,452 and their aggregate on balance sheet assets totaled $1.25 billion, with a total of $1.03 billion in loans to its members[55]. The two cooperatives have an estimated total membership of under 1,000. Based on the 2006 Canadian Census, and taking into consideration duplicate memberships among credit unions in the same city, as well as a growing number of their non-Ukrainian members, this represents an under 5% market penetration of the 1.2 million Canadians claiming Ukrainian heritage by both credit unions and consumer co-operatives.

In terms of financial service offerings, as integrated members of the pan-Canadian cooperative structures who network with each other and third parties, Ukrainian Canadian credit unions are able to offer a full array of consumer and commercial credit, savings and investment, financial planning, insurance, brokerage, credit card and all forms of electronic banking products and services to their members. The only limitation may be the size and operational capabilities of the credit union. As a result, as a group, Ukrainian Canadian credit unions have remained current and competitive in a very competitive consumer banking environment in Canada.


b. Ukrainian Canadian Credit Unions and Credit Union Development in Ukraine

The close ties between Canadian and Ukrainian credit unions today date back to two seminal events. First, proposals made in 1989 to the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA), the Canadian movements international development arm, by its board member Yarko Skrypnyk, a Ukrainian Canadian community activist and cooperator from Edmonton, who urged the CCA to help develop credit unions in Ukraine. Secondly, to a meeting of Ukrainian Canadian, American and Australian credit union representatives to the World Council of Ukrainian Cooperatives held in Toronto on August 17, 1991, two days before the failed putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev.


Skrypnyk’s initial efforts were stymied because CCA’s work was largely funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, and the Canadian government had suspended foreign aid to the Soviet Union because of Moscow’s decision to send tanks down the main street of Vilnius after Lithuania’s declaration of independence in March, 1990. With events quickly unfolding, efforts began to be made in Canada by the Council of Ukrainian Credit Unions of Canada to lobby the CCA in support of Skrypnyk’s initiative, and a similar coordinated effort with the Ukrainian American credit union movement was made to lobby the US AID-sponsored World Council of Credit Unions to direct its attention to Ukraine. These lobbying efforts were important, because aside from their development expertise, these organizations had access to government foreign aid funds which we wanted to have directed towards credit union development in Ukraine. They were focused more on “Russia” which they equated with the Soviet Union, and we worked to educate them about Ukraine and its potential.


At the August 1991 Toronto meeting, there was discussion of a possible credit union exploratory mission to Ukraine notwithstanding the existence of the Soviet regime. I remember well the exchange between young enthusiasts with an older leader who admonished them, “Gentleman, walk on the ground, and not on the clouds”. Within a week, Ukraine had declared its independence, and we indeed suddenly found ourselves walking on the clouds, but having laid the ground work for what was to follow.


Within two months, a Ukrainian delegation headed by Verkhovna Rada speaker, Leonid Krawchuk, made an official visit to Ottawa in advance of the December 1, 1991 referendum. Тhe CUCUC successfully lobbied the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to its and CCA representatives at an economic round table being hosted by the Canadian foreign affairs department with two Ukrainian ministers. Due to a translation error of the word “cooperatives” during the meeting, Canadian officials were advised that the ministers were especially interested in “credit unions”. The door had been opened for the first sum of Canadian government funding. The strategy was to build up such sources of funding through the CCA and WOCCU, in support of the expertise Ukrainian North American credit unions were prepared to share with Ukraine.


Conceptually, the CUCUC and its members believed that the cooperative ideals that were brought from Ukraine, and then allowed to grow and flourish in Canada, could now be transferred back to their place of origin, and the circle made complete. The motivation for doing so was the love of Ukraine, and the desire to help build a free, democratic and independent Ukrainian state from the grass roots. Beyond improving the material lot of the population, it was and remains the goal to use cooperative principles to help provide individuals in Ukraine with the sense of what it meant to control their own economic, and national destiny.


The technical assistance provided by the CUCUC and CCA over the last seventeen years have involved three mutli-year, multi-million dollar projects funded by the Canadian International Development Agency , the last of which, called the Ukrainian Credit Union Strengthening Program, ends next year. Among the areas in which expertise has been provided are board governance, bookkeeping, credit granting, legislative drafting and regulation, political lobbying, rural development, centrals and trade associations, stabilization and deposit insurance and, marketing. Some 150 interns from Ukraine credit unions have studied with credit unions in Canada, and dozens of technical cooperants have visited Ukraine in addition to in country Canadian project managers and their local staff. The projects have drawn from both Ukrainian Canadian and other Canadian credit unions, as well as from Canadian regulatory agencies and cooperative organizations. I hasten to add, that in addition to the Canadian effort, technical and financial assistance has continued to be provided by Ukrainian American and Ukrainian Australian credit unions.


We in Canada were not to be disappointed by the interest, commitment, professionalism of the many beautiful people we have met over the years in the Ukrainian credit union movement. The intellect and sheer resourcefulness of the people involved is very impressive, and we have been privileged to witness the rebirth of the cooperative ideal in the land of our forebearers.


c. Co-operative Principles & Cooperatives in an Affluent Society: Quo Vadis?


The program to develop credit unions in Ukraine has obviously been important to Ukraine, but it has also been very important to Ukrainian Canadian credit unions. In helping restore, in part, the cooperative zeal that had progressively subsided as the our community became farther removed by time and wealth from the roots of our movement.


Indeed, the question is whether in affluent societies like Western Europe, the United States and Canada there is still relevance for cooperative principles and cooperatives. After all, while a relatively small portion of the populations in these countries still struggle economically, and even smaller sections live in poverty, the phenomena of consumerism, easy credit, and mass wealth seem to have obviated the need for alternative models to capitalism. (Of course, this dilemma is not yet faced by Ukraine, but it is making steady economic progress towards it).


This challenge of relevance today has been created, in part, by the very success of cooperatives themselves. The Ukrainian Canadian cooperative movement, as a good example, helped advance the status of Ukrainian Canadians far up from where they stood on the socio-economic scale in the 1930’s.


As ever greater success was achieved, Ukrainian Canadian credit unions followed the normal course of all Canadian credit unions. They went from being fledgling entities run by idealistic volunteers committed to cooperation and mutual self help in harsh economic times, to ones with professional cadres focused on retaining the business of increasingly affluent members whose business was solicited by the banks in a highly competitive consumer-oriented market.


Concurrent with the growth of material wealth, came a change in the nature of Ukrainian ethnicity, a key component underlying the collective strength of Ukrainian Canadian credit unions. With over 90% of our community born in Canada, and three quarters of the 1.2 million Ukrainians in Canada claiming to be of mixed Ukrainian and other ancestry, Ukrainian identity for those born in Canada is much different than what it was seventy five years ago. For these individuals, having a Ukrainian identity has become a matter of choice, not something into which one has have been born and to which you are compelled to be bound because of your exclusion from society’s mainstream institutions.[56] Indeed, gone is the extensive ethnic discrimination that had been experienced by Ukrainians for the first sixty years in Canada, which both encouraged membership in Ukrainian cooperatives, and at the same time gave incentive for individuals to shed their ethnic identity in order to improve their social mobility[57].


In terms of recent Ukrainian immigration to Canada, many have joined Ukrainian credit unions for the same reasons as their predecessors. Familiarity with culture and language continue to be the main draw. However, unlike previous waves of immigration before 1980, new Ukrainian immigrants are actively pursued by Canadian banks and other business as a profitable source of new business. This, combined with a weaker tradition in contemporary Ukraine of community volunteerism and belonging collectively to traditional Ukrainian organizations, like churches for example, means that Ukrainian Canadian credit unions must more actively market to this new demographic group, and to do so more in commercial rather than cooperative or ethnic terms. In common with many of their ethnic compatriots born in Canada, contemporary Ukrainian immigrants are often inclined to do business with a “powerful Canadian bank” because they associate this with being successful, often paying more for the same services, offered in a more sympathetic way, by Ukrainian Canadian credit unions.


The changes in the relevance of cooperative ideals and ethnic identity have had a concrete impact on Ukrainian credit unions in Canada. Financial data for the ten year period ending 2005[58], shows that while membership and assets of Ukrainian Canadian credit unions continued to grow, their market share of banking and financial services was not keeping pace with their Canadian bank competitors. During this period, the rate of asset growth among Canadian chartered banks was more than double that of Ukrainian Canadian credit unions. Were it nor for the immigration to Canada of Ukrainians from Poland in the 1980’s and for the last 15 years from Ukraine, which together have been the single largest source of new business and growth for Ukrainian Canadian credit unions, I believe that their growth in aggregate would have been negligible.


Unlike credit unions and cooperatives in Ukraine today which aim to serve the general population and have enormous potential to fill the void in the marketplace left by domestic and foreign commercial banks, it can be argued that the original economic mandate of Ukrainian Canadian credit unions, that is, to lift up the community, has been achieved. Beyond servicing the daily banking needs of their native and immigrant members, Ukrainian Canadian credit unions are largely left with their social mandate to help maintain and build the Ukrainian community and its institutions, to be a positive force in Canadian society, and to provide such continuing assistance as necessary to the movement in Ukraine.


However, there are two main challenges to continuing this community-oriented mandate in the longer term. The first is the increasing pressure for credit unions to merge with others to achieve economies of scale in order to remain competitive, and the second is the weakening of cooperative consciousness described above.


While there has been significant consolidation among Ukrainian Canadian credit unions over the years, during the last three years, two of the smallest Ukrainian Canadian credit unions have merged with other non-Ukrainian credit unions. In the latest case, the situation may have been avoided if Canadian law had provided for merger between Ukrainian credit unions in different provinces.


As for the mergers among Ukrainian credit unions, these have often occurred between larger stronger credit unions with those in smaller cities whose Ukrainian business base has already been eroded by assimilation or migration of young people to larger centres. While being consistent with the ideals of cooperation and ethnic solidarity, such mergers made with the intent of preserving smaller Ukrainian communities are not always consistent with financial demands to be more efficient for the sake of commercial competitiveness. A future Canadian federal credit union law to allow mergers of Ukrainian credit unions among provinces, or the amendment of the North American Free Trade Agreement to allow for Ukrainian credit unions in Canada and the United States to merge, are possible options to overcome this dilemma.


Perhaps more important for Ukrainian Canadian credit unions to be able to carry on their cooperative community mandate, is the rejuvenation of cooperative principles and greater cooperative education among the new and younger leaders within our own movement. This will provide the foundation for serious reflection on the future of our Ukrainian cooperatives in Canada and how we can respond cooperatively in new ways in response to our current circumstances.


Such education and reflection by the founders of the Canadian, the Ukrainian, and the Ukrainian Canadian cooperative movements, were fundamental to their success, as was their love of their people and their community. Regarding the last, as one cooperative thinker and academic has so eloquently stated it,

…I am arguing alongside all those going back to St. Paul, that without love all our efforts towards building community…will come to nothing…[A]rising out of th[e] idea of love of community as being a human end in itself with its own intrinsic value that we can identify community building as providing a central purpose for co-operative associations.”[59]


Some might argue that the time has passed for cooperative forms of enterprise in affluent societies like Canada, including Ukrainian ones. Once a good idea for a long gone era. Indeed, it seems rather quaint today, if not laughable, that during the 1940’s cooperative goals still included such concepts of financial stewardship as thrift and the discouragement “conspicuous consumption”[60], or that well into the 1970’s credit union legislation restricted loans to those given for “provident and productive purposes”[61]


But just wait a moment. Even if faith-inspired teachings on cooperation and good stewardship appear to be going unnoticed in an increasingly secular world, one need only look to the growing influence of the environmental movement. The call for each of us to reduce our “ carbon footprint”, to “tread more lightly on the earth”, and to make wiser use of resources is resonating with humanity more than ever.


Are not consumers in North America, in the face of globalization and global environmental threats, looking to achieve a sense of greater local control over a wide variety of matters in their life, including everything from where their food comes from to making ethically informed decisions about how they invest their savings?


Could it be that cooperative forms of enterprise will become more relevant again as they point to collective responsibility and collective solutions for collective problems, while satisfying the sense of local control? Will they again be seen as a means for individuals and communities to be, as Father Moses Coady once described,” masters of their own destiny”.


The extent to which Ukrainian Canadian cooperatives can be part of understanding and taking advantage of these shifts in thinking, while keeping love of community at heart, could be the key to their future relevance and ability to continue building a strong Ukrainian Canadian community through a strong Ukrainian Canadian cooperative movement.







[3]; May 29, 2008

[4] See generally Ian MacPherson “Consumers against Capitalism”

[5] Tremlay, Rosario Dr. The Caisses Populaires Desjardins Group, La Federation de Quebec des Caisses populaires Desjardins, Levis. 1976 p.11

[6] Ibid., pp. 11-12.

[7] May 29, 2008

[8] Kenyon, Ron. To the Credit of the People, The Ontario Credit Union League Limited, Toronto, 1976. p.7 [Quebec Co-operative Syndicates Act]

[9] Ibid. p.9.

[10]Cooperative Credit Associations Act, Statutes of Canada, 1991, c.48

[11] Kenyon, Ron. To the Credit of the People, The Ontario Credit Union League Limited, Toronto, 1976. p.10.

[12] Ibid. pp.12-14.

[13] Coady, M.M.. Masters of their Own Destiny: The Story of the Antigonish Mocement of Adult Education through Economic Cooperation, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1939.

[14] Mary Coyle Director, Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier UniversityA Personal Perspective on the Evolution of Microcredit in the Late Twentieth Century


[16] McGowan, Mark G. “The Maritimes’ Region and the Building of a Canadian Church: The Case of the Diocese of Antigonish after Confederation” in CCHA Historical Studies, 70 (2004) 27-48, at pp. 43-45.

[17] May 28, 2008

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ian MacPherson, “Consumers against Capiatlism?” in p. 333

[20] Ibid. p.334

[21] Ibid. p.334

[22] Ibid. p. 336

[23] Ibid. p. 336

[24] Brett Fairburn, “History of Cooperatives” in Merret, Christopher D. and Walzer, Norman (eds.) Cooperatives and Local Development: Theory and Applications for the 21st Century, City, 2003. pp.40-41.

[25] Ian MacPherson p. 342.

[26] Coady, M.M.. Masters of their Own Destiny: The Story of the Antigonish Mocement of Adult Education through Economic Cooperation, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1939. p.57

[27] Coady, M.M.. Masters of their Own Destiny: The Story of the Antigonish Mocement of Adult Education through Economic Cooperation, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1939. p.58

[28] MacPherson, Ian. Co-operation, Conflict and Consensus: B.C. Central and Credit Union Movement to 1994. pp.23-26

[29] Ibid. p.29

[30] Ibid. pp.29-32

[31] Ethnic Origin (247), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census - 20% Sample Data ; see note 44; claimaints of Ukrainian heritage represent approx. 1% for single origin and 3.7% for multiple origin or an overall Canadian population of approx. 32 million; accounting for a disproportionate 70% cooperatitve membership in Quebec (pop. 7.5 million) due to the dominant market penetration of Mouvement Desjardins and subtracting 5.3 million coop members from 12.8 total for Canada, and subtracting out 60,000 as members of the Ukrainian Canadian cooperative movement, using the 3.7% figure would leave us with almost 250,000 Ukrainian Canadians in coops 2006 Community Profiles - Census Metropolitan Area/Census Agglomeration Date last modified: 2008-05-01 File size: 59k
Québec - Statistics Canada's Community Profiles present community level information from the 2006 Census of population. Users can search for an area of interest among 5,418 communities, 288 counties (or their equivalents), 33 large and 111 smaller metropolitan areas.

[32] The prominence of Ukrainians in the Canadian cooperative sector has not been researched or documented, a gapas that was identified by vytonavych .p.541 40 years ago, and the stll remains trueFor example, Dauphin Plains Credit Unions board in northern Manitoba – at leastand Kachoor ? half the board of directors is of Ukrainian orgin, the staff surnames include Pulak, fkfkf, adfdf an the winners of the summer camp contest are Shaylan Cottick (Kotyk) and Jordan Panko. This credit union was one that participated in the credit union development program, but is not a “Ukrainian credit union” per se, though a large portion of its members are assume of Ukrainian origin, as the Ukrainians make up 41% of the population, and are the largest group after English/Scottish/Irish at 53% [32] many, if not most of its members are Ukrainian. The prominence of Ukrainians in the Canadian cooperative sector has not been researched or documented, a gap that was identified by vytonavych .p.541

[33] PETRUSHEVICH, Ivan (1875-1950)

Accession number: MG 30 C 151
Microfilm, n.d., 1910-1914, 5 reels, M-5227 to M-5231; finding aid no. 1062.

Ivan Petrushevich arrived in Canada in 1913 to organize Ukrainian cooperatives. In Winnipeg he edited the Ukrainian newspaper Kanadyiskyi Rusyn (Canadian Ruthenian). In 1914-1915 he was Commissioner to the Ruthenians for the Canadian government. He organized the Ukrainian community to obtain the release of war internees and to prevent the abolition of Ukrainian bilingual schools in Manitoba. In 1919 Petrushevich was a member of the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference to provide diplomatic aid to the Ukrainian National Republic and in 1920-1923 he was Secretary of the London Mission of the Western Ukrainian National Republic. Microfilm copy of originals held by the Hoover Institute for the Study of War, Peace and Revolution, Stanford, California.

Correspondence, diplomatic notes, reports, newspaper clippings, documentation on the cooperative movement, brochures, booklets and other printed matter


[34] Vytanovych p. 539

[35] 50th anniversary of Carpathia Credit Union p.

[36] Subtelny Ukraine: A Hisorty p. 442. See also 1929 OUN Program translated by Taras Pidzamecky and Roman Waschuk in Boshyk, Yurij (ed.) Ukraine During World War II, p.

[37] Carpathia Credit Union: 50 Years of Service to the Ukrainian Community (anniversary booklet). Winnipeg, 1990 p.5

[38] Carpathia Credit Union: 50 Years of Service to the Ukrainian Community (anniversary booklet). Winnipeg, 1990 p. 5

[39] Vytanovych p541

[40] Vytanovych pp541-545. and Multicultural Canada reference p.

[41] Vytanovych ? includes 3 ukr Desjardin units in quebec not included in Vytanovych’s numbers

[42] Kachor ZolotuNorth Winnipeg Credit Union Golden Jubiliee pp.4-5

[43] Anfdiry Kachor, Idejni Osnovy Ukrainskoji Koopratsii v Diaspor, Worl d Council of Ukrainian Cooperatives, Chicago-Toronto-Winnipeg, 1979 p.14



[46] Kachor, Andrij, Rolia Dukhovenstva I Tsekvy v Ekonomichnomu Vidrodzhenni Zakhidnoji Ukrainy, Ukrainska Vilna Akademia Nauk Seria: Litopys UVAN c.30, Vinnipeg, 1992. at p. 22.

[47] Andrij Kachor p.27.

[48] See generally Kachor, Andrij, Rolia Dukhovenstva I Tsekvy v Ekonomichnomu Vidrodzhenni Zakhidnoji Ukrainy, Ukrainska Vilna Akademia Nauk Seria: Litopys UVAN c.30, Vinnipeg, 1992

[49] Magocsi, Paul Rober, The Roots of Ukrainain Nationalism: Galicia as Ukraine’s Piedmont University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2002 at p.21.

[50] See Vytanovych tables showing founding dates of credit unions.

[51] Magocsi, Paul Rober, The Roots of Ukrainain Nationalism: Galicia as Ukraine’s Piedmont University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2002 at p.21.

[52] Government of Canada Cooperatives Secretariat website. May 30, 2008

[53] Cooperatives Secretariat Top 50 Non-Financial Co-operatives in Canada 2006 (Revised)


[54] Canadian Co-operative Association, Annual Report 2006-2007, page 16.

[55] Leshchyshen, Bohdan ……

[56] Petryshyn see montreal speech citation “....українці канадці сьогодні не є недобровільною етнічною групо. Недобровільні групи формуються коли проти них існує дискрімінація і вони є змушенні сформуватися тому що вони себе знаходять виключанами з домінуючих і основних (мейнстрім) стурктур суспільства.


Натомість, канадці українського походження – разом з польскими, недерланськими, німецькими, менонітськими, та євреями – є етнічні групи які існують в суспільних рамках добровільного плюралізму.... українці канадці ...є меншістю, добровільною етнічністю, які існують як само-змобілізована громада, вбільшости без державного визначення для іхньої відокрлемленої ідентичності (як наприклад, як нарід поселенців основоположників в Канаді).” [56]


[57] For a seminal discussion of the phenomenon of social mobility in Canada, including ethnic assimilation, see John Porter, The Vertical Mosaic, 1965?

[58] on Ukrainian Canadian Credit Unions and overall financial services sector information available from the Bank of Canada. From this data I was able to conclude that in the ten year period 1995 to 2004



Additional notes/poits


Begegran CU North America Appendix O - Quebec territorial, Ontario no limit, othes usual and fising villages


Begengran use him for footnotes rather than wikipedia sources for rochadale princiles etc. or as additional source in footnote



[59] Davis, Peter Co-operative Purpose, Values and Management in the 21st century… p.4

[60]Locate foot note in Ian MacPherson

[61] Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act, Revised Statutes of Ontario 1980, chapter, s.x