Statement made on 01 May 2012 by Senator Catherine Callbeck
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck:
Honourable senators, 2012 has been declared the International Year of Cooperatives. According to the United Nations, this commemorative year is intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The year will also highlight the strengths of the cooperative business: They are owned and controlled by their members, and they have a distinct commitment to both economic development and social justice.
It is estimated that as many as 1 billion people are involved in the cooperative movement. The self-help principles on which the cooperative movement is based make an enormous contribution to the needs of the people of developing countries.
Here at home, cooperatives exist in virtually every sector of the Canadian economy. One can be born in a health care cooperative and be buried by a funeral co-op. In between, one can purchase a wide range of goods and services from groceries to insurance, find employment in a workers' co-op, live in a housing co-op, or engage in a broad range of economic, cultural and social activities carried out by cooperatives.
Cooperatives and credit unions have a huge impact on communities right across Canada. There are currently over 9,000 cooperatives and credit unions in this country, and 18 million Canadians are members of at least one of them. Some 70,000 people volunteer their time to become members of the boards of co-ops and credit unions. Co-ops and credit unions have combined assets of approximately $252 billion, and they employ over 155,000 people. For example, the Desjardins movement in Quebec is the largest employer in the whole province.
Honourable senators, the International Year of Cooperatives provides a great opportunity to recognize the tremendous contributions that cooperatives make to the economic and social well-being of the people of the world. These community-based organizations care not only about the financial health of their businesses but also about the quality of life and standard of living of the people in the communities they serve. In so doing, they make a vital contribution to the health of our economy and the well-being of our fellow Canadians.
I ask you to join with me to pay tribute to the outstanding contributions made by cooperatives and credit unions and to wish them continued success in the future.