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"Une Génération Spontanée"
Father Clement Desrochers, o.m.i.: Animateur

Henriette Kelker
Research Associate
Provincial Museum of Alberta

The Co-operative Solution

Credit unions were born out of need. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and amidst the dislocations of the Industrial Revolution, poverty was common. Co-operative financial experiments began almost simultaneously in France, Germany, England, Belgium and Italy. Many credit unions were organised by the local clergy — both Catholic and Protestant. In North America, Alphonse Desjardin from Lévis, Quebec, read about the successful European endeavours and educated himself through correspondence with European union leaders. In 1900, the first Canadian credit union, La Caisse Populaire de Lévis, was incorporated. Desjardin helped establish 205 other credit unions in Quebec, the rest of Canada and the United States.

Capitalism evoked a socialist response in many spheres. By the end of the nineteenth century the Social Gospel movement became a strong influence in the North American Protestant world. The CCF, formed in 1932, was largely inspired by Protestant clergy with a strong interest in socialism. In his Encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII refuted aspects of both socialism and capitalism, and set the direction for Catholic social teaching. He argued that “modern liberal society had produced a new individualism, dissolved the inherited sense of community, detached people from traditional values and permitted the ambitious and economically successful to gain power in society, influence public policy and define the cultural ideals.”13  The ideal of co-operatives adopted by the Antigonish movement, which had started in Nova Scotia, incorporated co-operative business initiatives as part of its program for the betterment of social conditions and morale. The idea was that “by jointly solving their economic problems people would escape self-centredness and psychic paralysis.” One believed that “through credit unions, co-operative stores, lobster factories and sawmills, we are laying the foundation for an appreciation of Shakespeare and grand opera.”14

'Le catéchisme des Caisses Populaires,' provoking lively discussion in the study circles led by Fr. Desrochers during the 1940's. As a result of those study circles, the people of Girouxville were inspired to action. The Girouxville Co-Op store was begun in 1951.'Le catéchisme des Caisses Populaires,' provoking lively discussion in the study circles led by Fr. Desrochers during the 1940's. As a result of those study circles, the people of Girouxville were inspired to action. The Girouxville Co-Op store was begun in 1951.

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