History of Credit Unions in Atlantic Canada

In 1900, Alphonse Desjardins founded the first Canadian credit union or “people’s bank” known as caisse populaire in Levis, Quebec.

In the 1930’s the Great Depression brought hard times to North America, including the Maritime Provinces. The Maritimes’ rural communities were declining. “Men were out of work and hungry; and crops could not find a market. Workers’ skills were rusting with disuse; the ambition and strength of the youth were not wanted.”

During these years, a movement starting at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, spread over the Maritime Provinces and received acclaims as a “courageous attempt of the people themselves to master the economic forces that held them in bondage.” Small groups of people organized study groups and learned to use the techniques of economic co-operation, which normally led to the formation of a Credit Union, a factory and a co-operative store. The most outstanding characteristic of the “Antigonish Movement” was perhaps its decentralized nature—everyone learned to co-operate in groups to help each other and themselves at the same time.



  • 1931 The first known rally of the Credit Union Movement was held in Little Dover, NS in 1931, assembled by Roy F. Bergengren and Father J.J. Tompkins (“Father Jimmy”).
  • 1932 First NS credit union opened its doors.
  • 1934 First meeting of Nova Scotia credit unions held in Sydney.
  • 1936 The Newfoundland and Labrador Commission of Government organized the Co-operative Division under the direction of Gerald Richardson.
  • 1936 The first credit union is formed on Prince Edward Island — the Liguorian Credit Union in Charlottetown.
  • 1936 The first credit union is formed in New Brunswick — now known as Blackville Credit Union in Blackville.
  • 1937, There are 25 credit unions organized and functioning on PEI with 1,815 members.
  • 1938 There are 16 credit unions in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • 1938 Nova Scotia government legislation incorporates the Nova Scotia Credit Union League. The League begins acting as a clearing house for credit union funds. Eventually the League becomes Credit Union Central of Nova Scotia.
  • 1939 The NL Co-operative Societies Act passed.

1940s and 50s

  • 1940 The NL Registry is opened. By the end of 1940, there are 27 credit unions registered with 3,000 members and $45,000 in assets.
  • 1943 First all-Canadian credit union convention.
  • 1944 50 credit unions in PEI with 6,880 members.
  • 1950 First credit union chequing accounts implemented.
  • 1957 Number of credit unions peaks on PEI at 59, with 9,150 members and total assets of $1,283,152. Through the efforts of Mr. Joseph Gaudin, a Stabilization Fund and consolidation program brought that number down and ensured the long term viability of the system.
  • 1958 Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (DOSCO) becomes the first credit union to reach the $1 million mark in assets.
  • 1959 In Nova Scotia, there are 59,993 members with assets of $14,111,000

1960s to now

  • 1963 US President John F. Kennedy marks International Credit Union Day with the signing of a federal Credit Union Bill.
  • 1966 The familiar Hands and Globe logo is introduced as the new credit union symbol
  • 1968 Under a special act of Canadian Parliament, Nova Scotia credit unions and Central (then known as League) incorporated League Savings and Mortgage Company to provide mortgages for customer-owners.
  • 1974 League Data created to provide credit unions with information services, total solutions and data support services.
  • 1994 Credit unions lead the introduction of ATMs in Nova Scotia.
  • 1997 Citizens Credit Union in NB opens its doors. It’s the first charter issued in New Brunswick in 60 years.
  • 1998 MemberDirect online banking introduced.
  • 1999 The Credit Union Act and Regulations are proclaimed in Newfoundland and Labrador
  • 2002 Credit unions in all Atlantic provinces embarked on a new branding strategy, focusing on the competitive advantage of our professional network.
  • 2009 Credit unions of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador unanimously agree to join credit unions in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in forming an Atlantic Central.
  • 2011 Credit union centrals of PEI, NB and NS join together in a business combination to form Atlantic Central with the strength of 62 credit unions and 340,000 members.

See also: History of PEI Credit Unions, History of NS Credit Unions, History of NL Credit Unions, History of NB Credit Unions