By CWCF Staff
From June 12th to 14th, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC) held their annual Congress in Ottawa. This grand occasion consisted of 3 days of informative and insightful sessions, activities, and discussions with various leaders and representatives from the co-operative sector, as well as other allies.
On Monday the 12th, the congress started off with a session entitled “Consultations on Co-op Identity” sponsored by the Mark Goldblatt Co-operative Ideas Foundation. This was a highly reflective session, where one of the main activities involved attendees forming groups and collectively selecting the top 4 co-operative values that resonated most with them. This was one of the most thought-provoking activities, as it prompted individuals to select and support their top choices amongst principles that held very similar levels of importance. To conclude, we heard from a representative of each group who shared the values their table discussed. Many individuals agreed that themes such as democratic member (including worker) control, environmental responsibility, and diversity and inclusion ranked high on the list of values that the co-op sector should build on.
Later in the afternoon, the Congress officially kicked off with the opening session led by John Kay, CEO of Realize Strategies Co-operative based in Vancouver. Following this event, CMC’s Director of Advocacy Diamond Isinger moderated a plenary session entitled “Parliament Hill & Policy Context”; where Members of Parliament Ryan Turnbull (Liberal MP, Whitby ON) and Jasraj Singh Hallan (Conservative MP, Calgary AB) answered questions on how co-operatives may better acquire support from government bodies. Later in the evening, the welcome reception took place. This was a great opportunity to network and reconnect. Folks showed up in their best attire and enjoyed meeting new and familiar faces.
On Tuesday the 13th, the Young Leaders’ Showcase took place, where 3 youths currently leading in the co-operative space, presented their projects and involvement in the sector. We heard from the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation’s Janielle Maxwell- Project Coordinator for the JEDDI Business Conversion Project:https://canadianworker.coop/jeddi-conversions-project/, Jessica Cabana- Cooperative Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor, and Katy McCreadie, – Financial Experience Advisor at Connect First Credit Union. Janielle’s presentation highlighted that the co-op sector has an opportunity to be distinguished from traditional business realms and appeal to the next generation of co-op leaders; if and only if they are centered on themes of equity, diversity & decolonization; while learning from the pre-colonial co-operative practices of members of Equity-Denied Groups. Next, Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido, a BIPOC advisor to the CWCF board sat on a panel discussion, “A Co-op Movement for Everyone” along with Serah Gazali from the Women’s Economic Council and Hanen Khemakhem from the University of Quebec in Montreal.
At the Gala Dinner and CMC Awards, CWCF accepted CMC’s inaugural award for the JEDDI Initiative of the Year, which honours a Canadian co-operative that has made a significant contribution to integrating notions of justice, equity, diversity & inclusion into their practices, organization, and community. CWCF representatives Hazel Corcoran (CWCF’s Executive Director), Janielle Maxwell, Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido, and Paul DeVillers (previous BIPOC advisor to the CWCF board) accepted this award on behalf of the Federation.
The next day, the Congress concluded with two vibrant panels, with themes “Climate Action in 2023 and Beyond” and “Co-ops Supporting Communities, Communities supporting Co-ops” respectively. The closing session was led by John Kay, which was followed by the CMC 2023 Annual General Meeting, where attendance was open to non-members as well as delegates. Among other business, it was announced that the next CMC Congress would be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia on June 11- 13, 2024.