From June 12 to 14, CMC held its 2023 Congress in Ottawa, at the Delta Hotel City Centre. The CMC team was delighted to welcome over 130 participants to the Congress, and to host a number of free sessions. We look forward to meeting the co-operative sector again next year, June 11th to June 13th in Halifax for another great Congress.

Free interactive sessions and a strong launch!

The CMC team was pleased to host a number of free sessions on Monday morning and during the afternoon before the official opening of the Congress. These sessions enabled smaller groups to interact on topics of great interest and relevance to the current context of Canadian co-operatives.

Led by Alexandra Wilson, Paul Hanna and Hazel Corcoran and sponsored by the Mark Goldblatt Co-operative Ideas Foundation, this stimulating, interactive workshop gathered the views of Canadian co-operators as part of the current global consultation on co-operative identity. 

At the same time, in the adjacent room, the Women’s Economic Council (WEC) workshop entitled: Breaking barriers: towards inclusive co-operative leadership was taking place. The aim of the session was to help strengthen efforts to attract, welcome and support diverse women into board and senior management positions within co-operatives and mutuals.

In the afternoon, Meg Ronson, from the Canada’s Emerging Co-operators and CoopZone, led an interactive meeting with co-operative developers. Armed with pencils and large cardboard boxes, Meg Ronson got everyone who attended her session actively involved.

At 3:00 p.m., all participants gathered in the ballroom to officially launch the CMC 2023 Congress. John Kay, Chair of the Board, and Daniel P. Brunette of CMC, both welcomed the more than 130 people who had come to Ottawa for the Congress.

The opening session was followed by a panel discussion with two MPs from Parliament Hill. Diamond Isinger, CMC’s Director of Advocacy, moderated a discussion between Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull, a well-known personality in the co-op community, and Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan. The conversation highlighted what was happening on the Hill, the importance of co-ops and mutuals in Canada, and how co-operators could communicate with their MPs to advance co-op issues.

After the day’s only formal session, participants and guests from Ottawa-area aboriginal communities were treated to the film Atautsikut / Leaving None Behind, sponsored by FCNQ Education Trust. This moving screening demonstrated the reality of indigenous peoples and the impact of co-operatives on their lives. Participants also had the opportunity to chat with the film’s director, John Houston, in a Q&A session. 

This busy first day ended with a welcome reception during which participants were able to network and relax.

An inspiring day and a festive evening

We started the day with a bang, welcoming Senators Moncion and Coyle for breakfast. They took the time to highlight the impact of co-operatives in Canada.

After this inspiring breakfast, participants attended a panel discussion with Mary Nirlungayuk, VP Corporate Services of Arctic Co-operatives Limited and Randy Dagasdas, CEO of Me-Dian Credit Union Limited who discussed how their co-operative business approaches the topics of truth and reconciliation and their recommendations for other co-operatives.

After a break, participants reconvened in the ballroom for case studies with young co-op leaders. Étienne Desfossés and Pénélope Bégin, both members of CEC, presented the white paper on young Canadian co-operators, offering recommendations on how young leaders can become more involved in the movement.

Kathy McCredie of Connect First Credit Union presented her project on financial literacy and highlighted its importance. For her part, Jessica Cabana of the CQCM invited reflection on the place of young people in the movement through housing co-operatives. Janielle Maxwell of the CWCF, for her part, presented the project to convert businesses into social purpose organizations (SPOs) for equity disadvantaged groups (EDGs), for which she is in charge.

Participants took a moment to network and enjoy a delicious meal inspired by Indian cuisine before attending the session on co-operative development across Canada. Kristen Murray, from NLFC, opened the session by explaining the current state of the co-op movement in Newfoundland and Labrador and how her co-op incubator project supports the co-op sector in this province. Cora Wiens, a member of the Eadha Bakery worker co-operative, spoke about the bakery’s conversion to a worker co-operative, and how this co-operative led mainly by people from the 2SLGBTQI+ community came to be. Géraldine Lefebvre, from CCO, explained the current state of co-operative development in Ontario and how CCO supports this development through several of its initiatives.

The final session of the day entitled, A co-operative movement for everyone, was a panel moderated by Hanen Khemakhem, a Université de Montréal professor specializing in governance and JEDI. Panelists Juliet Kego Ume-Onyido, BIPOC specialist at the FCCT Board of Directors, and Serah Gazali from WEC, discussed how they approach the integration of JEDI in their organizations, and provided fascinating recommendations on integrating these practices into co-operatives.

The day ended with a cocktail reception, followed by a gala dinner during which the CMC awards were presented. The Co-operator of the Year Award was proudly presented by the award’s sponsor, the Co-operation Council of Ontario!Participants enjoyed a delicious supper before filling the dance floor to the lively beat of Band Sway! 

All good things come to an end

After a lively evening on the dance floor, co-operators regained their strength with a delicious breakfast sponsored by Co-operators!  

As climate action is a source of questions and concerns for all types of businesses, a discussion on the subject was in order. The panel Fighting climate change in 2023 and beyond was presented by our proud sponsor Sollio Co-operative Group. Joanna Hausen from CMC moderated the session, which included Shawna Peddle from The Co-operators, Bolu Omidiji from CCUA, Stéphane Forget from Sollio and Martin Van Den Borre. These experts highlighted their companies’ concrete strategies against climate change and discussed the solutions available for different types of co-operatives. 

Our final session of the Congress focused on P7, community involvement. Moderated by Patrice Gathier from Éconocoop, this francophone panel included Josée Brisson from Co-operators, Marc Hébert from CDR Acadie and Martin Grenier of william.coop. Among other topics, the panel addressed childcare as a way of serving Principle 7.

Daniel P. Brunette of CMC and John Kay, Chairman of CMC’s Board of Directors, concluded the Congress and invited participants to the next Congress in 2023, to be held in Halifax. Joanna Lechasseur also invited participants to register for the Global Innovation Summit to be held in Montreal in September 2023.

For the second time in the past two years, CMC was proud to organize a face-to-face event to encourage discussion and networking within the Canadian co-operative community. The entire team is already looking forward to welcoming the movement to the Halifax Convention Centre from June 11 to June 13, 2024.