Credit unions are co-operative financial institutions, owned and controlled by their members. One of the fundamental principles of a credit union is democratic control. As shareholders, all credit union members have a voice in setting their credit union’s direction at the local level. Each credit union member has one vote, regardless of the amount of deposits or shares they have in their credit union. Members also elect their credit union’s board of directors, which is responsible for governing their credit union.
While each credit union is an independent, democratic and locally-controlled financial institution, all credit unions share a common bond: their dedication to the people and communities they serve. In addition, all credit unions are guided by the seven Co-operative Principles, which shape credit union business decisions and governance, setting them apart from other financial institutions.
Currently, about one out of every three Canadians belongs to a credit union or caisse populaire.
The following seven internationally accepted Co-operative Principles help shape credit union business decisions and governance, setting them apart from other financial institutions.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes. developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Source of Seven Co-operative Principles:
International Co-operative Alliance
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