Alphonse Desjardins honoured as Greatest Canadian Co-operator

    OTTAWA, June 19 /CNW Telbec/ - Alphonse Desjardins, the father of
Canada's caisse populaire movement and founder of Canada's sixth largest
financial institution, has been named history's "Greatest Canadian
Co-operator" following an online vote by more than 8,000 people across the
    The Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) announced the winner of the
Greatest Canadian Co-operator award at a gala dinner in Ottawa Thursday
evening celebrating the 100th anniversary of Canada's organized national
co-operative movement. Mr. Desjardins, who died in 1920, was one of 14
pioneers of the Canadian co-operative movement nominated for the award. All 14
were inducted into the virtual Canadian Co-operative Hall of Fame, which was
launched at Thursday's event.
    Mr. Desjardins, born to impoverished parents in 1854, established North
America's first co-operative savings and loan society - a caisse populaire, or
"people's bank" - in Lévis, Quebec in 1900 as an alternative to commercial
banks that charged exorbitant interest rates to farmers and workers. His
example inspired the creation of credit unions across Canada and the United
States and today, Desjardins Group is Canada's sixth largest financial
institution. It is also the largest co-operative organization of any kind in
Canada, based on turnover, and the 33rd largest co-operative in the world.
    CCA launched the Hall of Fame project in an effort to honour Canadians
past and present who have made a significant contribution to the Canadian
co-operative sector. Co-operators and supporters across the country were asked
to nominate deceased individuals who had made an important historical
contribution to the movement, then vote online for the Greatest Canadian
Co-operator. The Hall of Fame, which will be posted on CCA's website later this summer, will also include past, present and
future winners of CCA's two awards for living co-operators, the Canadian
Co-operative Achievement Award and the Global Co-operator Award.
    "When we launched this project, we did not anticipate the extent to which
the Greatest Canadian Co-operator award would capture the interest and
imagination of co-operatives and their members," said CCA President Dave
Sitaram, who announced the winner of the competition to more than 200 co-op
and credit union leaders Thursday evening. "When the voting closed at the end
of April, more than 8,000 people had cast their electronic ballots. Needless
to say, we were delighted."
    In addition to the Greatest Canadian Co-operator, CCA presented the 2009
Canadian Co-operative Achievement Award to Glen Tully, President of
Saskatoon-based Federated Co-operatives Limited. The award honours outstanding
individual contributions to the co-operative movement in Canada.

    The 2009 Global Co-operator Award, which honours an individual who has
demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to CCA's work in international
co-operative development, was presented to Olha Zawerucha Swyntuch of
Mississauga, Ontario for her successful efforts to develop credit unions in
Ukraine during the 1990s.

    The Canadian Co-operative Association is a national association for
co-operatives in Canada, representing more than nine million co-operative and
credit union members from over 2,000 organizations. CCA members come from many
sectors of the economy, including finance, insurance, agri-food and supply,
wholesale and retail, housing, health and the service sector. CCA provides
leadership to promote, develop, and unite co-operatives and credit unions for
the benefit of people in Canada and around the world.

For further information:

For further information: Donna Balkan, Communications Manager, Canadian
Co-operative Association, (613) 238-6711, ext. 206, Cell: (613) 314-1032,;

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