Starting a co-op

If you want to start a business, the co-op model should be a strong option to consider. This business model provides a democratic way to build solid foundations while receiving funding from either employees, members or other stakeholders that want to support your endeavors. The co-operative business model is a great financial model and a way to give back to your community by offering needed goods or services. It also provides members the power to be a democratically active part of your organization.

The process for incorporating a co-op

Incorporation gives your organization recognition and rights that are set by law. A co-operative can be incorported at the federal or provincial/territorial level and its status includes several specificities. We suggest that you contact the provincial or sectorial co-operative association and/or CoopZone to support you in your efforts. If you are located in Quebec, la Coopérative du Développement Régional du Québec or le Réseau Co-op can also help you with this process.

Co-op status and its implications

Incorporation gives your organization recognition and rights that are set by law. This legal status allows co-operatives to acquire assets, incur debt and generally facilitate the mobilization of capital. It also limits the liability of your members in case of financial or legal problems.

Although an organization can informally operate as a co-operative, it cannot add the word co-operative in its name and isn’t recognized as such by the law unless it is incorporated.

A co-operative is incorporated either provincially or federally and is then governed either by a provincial or territorial Co-operatives Act, or the Canada Co-operatives Act. Wondering what the difference is between provincial or federal incorporation? It simply depends on the location of operations: a federally incorporated co-op will operate in at least two provinces or territories and will have fixed offices in more than one province or territory.

Incorporating a co-op on the federal level

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) regulates co-operatives incorporated under the Canada Co-operatives Act. Their website provides access to policies, legislation, forms, and fees associated with federal co-operative incorporation.

Incorporating a co-op on a provincial or territorial level

Most Canadian co-ops are regulated under provincial or territorial law. To find out how to incorporate your co-op in your area, please select a province or territory :