Last week, the St-Albert Cheese Co-operative was in Quebec City for the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives. The Co-operative joined the 3000 or so other participants from some 100 countries to exchange and discuss mainly economic, food safety and job issues.
Did you know that the St-Albert Cheese Co-operative is one of the oldest cooperatives in Canada?
During this October 12 to 18 Cooperative Week, we thought about where exactly the Co-op fits into the timeline of the emergence of cooperatives in Ontario, not to mention the country. We know that it was one of the first, but was it actually the very first? Our research led us to the following conclusion:
The cooperative movement started in French Ontario in 1863 with the Union Saint-Joseph d’Ottawa, a mutual life insurance company that in 1959 became the Union du Canada. In 1894, Eastern Ontario dairy producers got together in St-Albert to make cheese.*
Fromagerie #743, “The St-Albert Co-Operative Cheese Manufacturing Association”, was founded on January 8, 1894, six years before Alphonse Desjardins opened his first Caisse populaire on December 6, 1900 in Lévis near Quebec City.
So, without really being able to pinpoint where the Co-op fits into the history of Canadian cooperatives, it would be fair to say that it is one of the country’s pioneers. Today, the St-Albert Co-operative includes some thirty Eastern Ontario dairy producers, who are represented by a seven-member board of directors headed by Ginette Quesnel, who was elected in June 2014, the very first woman to hold this seat.
Click on the picture to hear a testimonial by our President on the cooperative aspect of the St-Albert Cheese Co-operative:
*Source: Une identité à affirmer, un espace à occuper : aperçu historique du mouvement coopératif au Canada français, by Jean-Pierre Girard in collaboration with Suzi Brière. Prepared with the support of the Institut de recherche et d’enseignement pour les coopératives de l’Université de Sherbrooke (IRECUS), the Conseil canadien de la coopération and the Conseil de la coopération du Québec Secrétariat aux coopératives