Newfoundland and Labrador

History of Credit Unions in Newfoundland and Labrador

Canadian credit unions have a proud history and a bright future. In 1900, Alphonse Desjardins founded the first Canadian credit union or “people’s bank” known as caisse populaire in Levis, Quebec. In Newfoundland and Labrador the Commission of Government, on a recommendation in 1934 from Margaret Digby of the Horance Plunkett Foundation, decided to develop co-operatives in Newfoundland. In 1935 and 1936, St. F.X. University was asked to send a member of its staff to help with the organization. In the fall of 1936, after several months of research, the Co-operative Division was organized under the direction of Gerald Richardson.

Within a relatively short time, approximately 1,000 study clubs holding kitchen meetings were set up. The emphasis leaned towards credit societies as a means of building capital. However, the immediate benefits of lower prices and patronage refunds and, in many cases, interest free consumer credit in co-operatives were more attractive. By September 10, 1938, there were 16 credit unions in Newfoundland and Labrador. Ten were established in the Codroy Valley, Port au Port area and the remaining six on the Avalon Peninsula. The Co-operatives Societies Act was passed on July 13, 1939, and the Registry opened for business in January, 1940. By the end of 1940, there were 27 credit unions registered having 3,000 members and $45,000 in assets.

At December 31, 2008, there were 13 credit unions with 41 locations holding assets of $700 million dollars with 61,300 members in Newfoundland and Labrador. Credit unions now operate under the Credit Union Act and Regulations which was proclaimed in June, 1999 and updated in 2009.

Credit unions of the past can be proud of the innovations they have made. Credit unions of the present continue to be responsive to the changing needs of their members. Although originally developed to encourage thrift and provide a source of affordable credit, they have expanded into full-service financial institutions which, as a national system, have taken the lead in introducing such products and services as consumer loans, automated banking machines (ABM’s), MasterCard payment cards, daily interest savings accounts and flexible mortgages.