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. 

With charities, churches and NGOs providing essential and urgent support, Canadian co-operative leaders put their focus on rebuilding people’s lives, here in Canada and around the world, by leveraging the co-op business model. They helped create more self-reliant communities by lifting people out of poverty, through sustainable forms of income generation. 

Since 1947, CDF Canada has helped organize and build co-operatives in developing countries, by creating resilient, strong and democratic organizations that help their members and communities thrive.


1947: Formed in 1947 by the Co-operative Union of Canada (CUC), 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. It remains a thriving network of co-ops today, as it continues to expand, and provide goods and services throughout the North.

1950-60s: In the late 1950’s we took on our first project as CDF Canada.  Our primary focus was to share expertise and build awareness of how co-operatives operate, in several of the English-speaking Caribbean countries.

1960-70s: The Co-operatives Everywhere program helped to mobilize Canadian co-operative expertise, by developing co-ops here at home and around the world. Amongst the first credit unions were those in the West Indies and British Guyana. In 1962-1967 the Canadian North was selected for CDF’s domestic co-operative 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 the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the Caribbean in 1970. The aim was to increase understanding of how co-operatives operate and how they benefit the community. One project in particular, was a multi-year bilateral initiative with the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU), which helped promote and establish credit unions in over 20 territories in the Caribbean. We also began 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 Co-operative Association (CCA) in 1983 to implement projects which resulted in a rapid expansion of the co-operative network. By this time, we expanded our reach in more than 35 countries building co-operative 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 producer and marketing co-operatives. 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 the $10 million raised from individuals and corporate donors into $100 million of project funding, from institutional donors and international development agencies.

2020 and beyond: With a global pandemic, climate change and war, CDF Canada’s work is even more important now than ever. We continue to support our partners in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Eastern Europe – including Ukraine – to overcome obstacles and build lasting pathways to prosperity.


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