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Galleria & case studies

Stories by region

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Navigating by region

Navigating by region allows you to familiarize yourself with the ways co-ops are distributed throughout the province and what kinds of co-ops have formed in different places. Historically and today there are marked differences with the ways the co-op movement developed in rural and urban contexts. Farmers, orchardists, fishers, and loggers have formed co-ops, some purely for financial gain while others were attracted to the alternative social agenda co-ops professed. Some towns and region have witnessed an incredible amount of co-operative development. For example, Malcolm Island on the coast and Argenta in the West Kootenays have been meccas for co-ops. Other places such as Prince Rupert saw a rise of co-op activity during the 30s, 40s, and 50s in traditional sectors such as fishing, credit unions, and retail co-ops, but today very little co-op enterprise takes place despite this rich co-op heritage.

Unlike many other Canadian provinces, the co-operative movement in BC was has never been a unified one. Such variance in co-op patterns is in part due to the geographic diversity of the province, but has more to do with the class consciousness, ethnic, and political differences that exist in BC. The hinterland dimension has also contributed to the lack of a united movement. While in regional pockets, co-ops can feed off sectionalism, in turn sectionalism makes amalgamation difficult.

The concepts of 'place' and 'community' are also important to think about when considering co-ops from a regional perspective. Typically, people who live in the community where the co-op is situated create co-ops. Co-ops go 'hand-in-hand' with local development. Top-down co-op development is rarely successful, although it does happen. In this era of globalization, recognizing the community orientation of co-operatives becomes vital as it offers an alternative. As Greg McLeod from Cape Breton has stated: "The new international economic order is not friendly to local community."

One question of particular interest to us at BCICS is the roles co-ops can play in rural communities that are in transition. One industry towns, fishing villages, and towns dependent on resources abound in BC and are experiencing profound disruption in their communities as a result of the declining resource sector and big companies pulling out and moving elsewhere. What is the potential for co-operative development in places such as these?

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