Oikocredit in Canada and its Journey so Far

Oikocredit in Canada and its Journey so Far

December 20, 2023 at 6:43 PM - by Hans Van Nie - 0 comments

Oikocredit began as the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society in 1975. Founded as an initiative of the World Council of Churches, the Oikocredit membership is made up mostly of church bodies which hold investments in Oikocredit International. In Canada these currently include the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund of the Anglican Church, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada. These Oikocredit members came onboard in the early 1980’s and will continue to carry the Oikocredit torch in Canada into the future.

Oikocredit also has a second category of members known as “Support Associations,” made up of individual investors and supporters who, collectively, have provided a large majority of the funds that have kept Oikocredit going for the past 48 years. In Canada, our Support Association has gone through several versions, beginning with a small EDCS cooperative in Hamilton in 1983. Originally, the Support Associations found ways to market retail investment products to individuals. This was also the case in Canada where the early versions of our Support Association totalled close to $1 million in sales.

Eventually, tougher securities regulations made this relatively informal trade in investments unfeasible and we joined forces with Kindred Credit Union which was able to market an Oikocredit product in Canada, raising total sales in Canada to about $8 million. Unfortunately, in 2020, a further tightening of securities regulations along with the high overhead of doing business in Canada brought an end to all retail sales in Canada. The Support Association was able to carry on with its mission of carrying out
Oikocredit International’s grass roots education and outreach initiatives. Now, at the end of 2023, there are no remaining resources to keep our Support Association in operation.

As our Support Association winds down, there are two important points to emphasize: First, we express profound appreciation, admiration and gratitude for the incredible amount of work and effort that has been contributed by many individuals during the past 40 years in the support of Oikocredit in Canada.Virtually all of this work was done on a voluntary basis. From our founder, Heather Johnston to our current president Julie Scott, and hundreds of others in between, Oikocredit has been given countless
hours of efforts driven by a relentless passion and unswerving dedication to providing financing for millions of low income people with no other access to financial services. Many thanks to all of you!

Secondly, it is important to remember that Oikocredit is not “dead” in Canada. Our work carries on through our church members, which together still constitute “Oikocredit Canada.” We will continue to participate in the meetings, webinars and other activities of Oikocredit International and maintain our voice in this extraordinary global cooperative which has helped raise millions of people out of poverty and brought demonstrable levels of equity and well-being to thousands of disadvantaged communities.

Hans van Nie has been active with Oikocredit in Canada for more than 30 years. He served on the board of the first EDCS Support Association, was President of First Oikocredit Canada for several years, served on the Oikocredit International Members’ Council for two terms and has represented the United Church of Canada at many Oikocredit General meetings and other events.

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