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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Franco-Albertans participated wholeheartedly in the cooperative movement which swept across Canada following the Great Depression1. In 1939, encouraged by Archbishop Hugh MacDonald, of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, who saw the great poverty in his rural parishes, the Franco-Albertan clergy took up the banner and began to promote cooperative banking (in the form of credit unions) and cooperative stores. The same year, the cooperative movement was high on the agenda at the annual meeting of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA).

In 1935, the first Franco-Albertan group to establish a credit union was the Saint-Famille Parish of Calgary. By 1939, two rural communities, St. Lina and St. Paul had followed the example, opening credit unions of their own. By 1946, of the 143 credit unions in Alberta, 23 were held by French-Canadians.

A few consumer cooperatives were also established, as well as producer and farming cooperatives, but the francophones did not limit themselves linguistically, in the matters of eggs or cream, for instance. All in all, between 1939 and 1946, there were 38 cooperative institutions run by Franco-Albertans from a population of 31,000. 7,000 of these people were members of the cooperatives. A good number of the financial institutions remain to this day, in Beaumont, St. Paul, Bonnyville, and Edmonton, to name but a few, although the names have changed somewhat and some have been amalgamated following provincial legislation into larger units. As for the cooperative stores, the few which remain have associated themselves with the large Cooperative chain across the Prairies, which include the Falher establishment, as well as the St. Paul Co-op, one of the most important of the stores across the Prairies.

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