Our History

The Story of CDF Canada

Timeline of CDF Canada

Timeline of CDF Canada

After World War II, a new nation emerged, but people in Canada and the developing countries faced many economic, social, and environmental challenges. Poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment were on the rise.

Charities, churches, and NGOs were at the forefront to provide essential support to the population. After the war, Canadian coop leaders felt a renewed commitment to use the co-op model to help build self-reliant communities in Canada and around the globe to support people to move out of poverty, generate income and make a sustainable livelihood.

Formed in 1947, CDF Canada has been helping to organize and build co-operatives to create a resilient, strong and democratic organization that will help its members and communities.

CDF Canada Beginning and the Journey so far!


1947: Started in 1947 by the Co-operative Union of Canada, we started our initial work in Northern Canada with the Inuit communities to establish their co-op stores called Arctic Co-ops. The aim was to improve the local economy. Till today, it is a thriving network of co-ops as it continues to expand, provide goods and services throughout the North.

1950-60s: In the late 1940’s we started with our first project.  Our primary focus was to share expertise and build awareness on how co-operatives operate in the English-speaking Caribbean countries.

1960-70s: Co-operatives Everywhere program helped to mobilize Canadian cooperative expertise to develop coops at home and worldwide. First of these were credit unions in West Indies + British Guyana. In 1962-1967 – the Canadian North was selected for CDF’s domestic cooperative development agenda. In 1965, CUC helped establish Canadian Arctic Producers Co-op to assist northern people in controlling the market of their products

1970-80s: We collaborated on various projects with Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the Caribbean in 1970. The aim was to educate on how cooperative operates and how it benefits the community. One, in particular, was a multi-year bilateral project with the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU), which helped promote and establish credit unions in over 20 territories in the Caribbean. We also started with our first project in sub-Saharan Africa, and a few other English-speaking African countries.

1980-90s: In the early to mid-80s, we started working on many projects and increased our efforts in Asia and Latin America. We teamed up with the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) in 1983 to implement projects which resulted in a rapid expansion of the cooperative network. By this time, we expanded our reach in more than 35 countries building cooperative networks and systems.

1990-2000: Between 1990-2000, we worked to streamline and open trading between Latin America and Honduras, Panama, and El Salvador. The focus was to create markets between the countries thus linking the producing cooperative and marketing cooperative. We also helped rehabilitate many communities impacted due to natural calamities such as in
El Salvador, Honduras, Dominica, Montserrat, and the Dominican Republic. In mid-90’s we helped the Credit Union Central of Saskatchewan in a project addressing the financial services needs of aboriginal communities in the province. Between 1997 – 2000 – we supported several small-scale innovative co-op ventures across Canada.

2000-2010:  In mid-2000, we responded to calls for assistance in the wake of the Asian tsunami in Sri Lanka (and Aceh, Indonesia).

2010-2020: Since 2010, CDF has leveraged $10 million raised from individual and
cooperative donors into $100 million of project funding from institutional donors and international development agencies

2020 – We are supporting partners in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Eastern Europe to build lasting pathways to prosperity.

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