GTA Co-op Network Newsletter December

Welcome to Issue #3 of the GTA Co-op Network newsletter.

As you plan your holiday and year-end meals and festivities keep co-op retailers and producers on your list. Fantastic food, including many items made by co-ops, is yours to buy at Karma Co-opWest End Food Co-op, and The Big Carrot. Delightful gifts can be found at Urbane CyclistCome As You AreMECFreedom Clothing Collective, and many more you can find by searching On Co-op's co-op finder.

The steering committee has been hard at work to find ways to help you connect with other co-ops and share the message of this socially beneficial business model. Keep an eye on your email for upcoming get-togethers and information sharing sessions in 2016. 

Please share your ideas for events or collaborative projects with the steering committee through email at and join our Facebook group to learn about new
co-operative initiatives and connections everyday.

We've produced a printable version of this newsletter (download it here). Please post a copy where appropriate in your co-op.

In the GTA:

Storefront of Beaux-Arts Brampton

Beaux-Arts Brampton Christmas Bazaar

70 Main Street North, Brampton (map)

Join Beaux-Arts Brampton members to see their display of handmade crafts and holiday treats!! Showcasing a variety of artisans, stop by each week to find something new and unique!
The Bazaar kicked off on December 3 with a lovely reception and is open on Saturday December 12 & 19 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Syrian Refugees

In late November the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto sponsored a meeting to discuss ways co-op members in the Toronto area could help Syrian refugees. Over 60 people attended. They had speakers from Lifeline Syria and the Beyt-al-Amal Refugee Collective.

CHFT Executive Director Tom Clement recently distributed a memo about the meeting and has committed to regular updates to keep Toronto area co-operatives informed about local initiatives to help Syrian refugees. Keep an eye on the CHFT website and join their mailing list to keep informed.

Later this month CHFT is holding two conference calls to try and attempt to answer questions.
Thursday, December 10 at 2:00 p.m. for staff.
Thursday, December 10 at 7:00 p.m. for volunteers.
You must register for these conference calls. Please email Angela Calderone, to register. She will give you the conference call information.

Alterna first Canadian company to receive $300K microfinance grant from Whole Planet Foundation

Alterna Savings (with 10 branches in the GTA) has qualified as the first Canadian company to receive a microfinance grant from the Whole Planet Foundation, whose mission is poverty alleviation through microcredit in communities around the world that supply Whole Foods Market stores with products.

Whole Planet Foundation will provide Alterna with $300,000 in donations over three years for loan capital to low income borrowers who need $5,000 or less to start up small businesses. These underrepresented borrowers are among the working poor, low wage earners or those who are currently receiving government income support payments. For many of these individuals, accessing a loan through the Big Five financial institutions, or traditional credit sources, is simply not an option. 

Read the news release here.

Recent Co-op Events in Our Community:

Neill-Wycik's annual holiday meal was held on Friday December 4 and fed over 400 hungry members of this venerable student housing co-op in downtown Toronto. Learn about the co-op and its services here.

Co-op Profile: Parent Co-operative Preschool Corporation

Parent Co-operative Preschool Corporation (PCPC) is a non-profit co-operative corporation that supports parents and educators from childcare centres who are dedicated to creating quality learning environments for young children.

Members of PCPC are legally incorporated preschools, nurseries and childcare centres licensed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Ontario). All are non-profit and many are co-operative organizations.

PCPC is dedicated to promoting organizational stability and programming excellence in each of its member centres through education, consultation, resources, insurance, and fundraising and marketing tools and support.

Around Ontario:

TREC Education

TREC Education delivers renewable energy education programs in classrooms and at community events across Ontario – creating systemic change for a greener future and fostering the next generation of renewable energy leaders. They directly engage more than 10,000 students and adults each year. Learn more about TREC Education at

Across Canada:

Parliament Hill with crowds of protesters in front

A Renewable Energy Future Through
Co-operation is Possible

Want learn how to get to 100% renewable energy by 2050? Kathryn MacDonald and SolarShare have the answers for you on the the SolarShare blog. Read about what others are doing then tell us what your co-op is doing to fight climate change and build a more resilient future. Email us at and we'll share your actions in the next issue.

Related Initiatives:

Co-operative Education and Research Conference

Energizing Communities: Co-operatives Nurturing Democratic Practice! 

The University of Calgary
June 1-3, 2016

In 2016 the ACE Institute will be partnered with the Canadian Association for the Studies of Co-operation (CASC) annual Congress.  This joint co-operative education and research conference is part of the 2016 Congress of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Request for Presentations
The ACE-CASC conference planning committee warmly invite your proposals for presentations, workshops, research papers, case studies and posters for this year's joint conference.

Details about the categories, submission criteria and submission form can be found here, et ici en francais.
Proposals are due by January 15, 2016
If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Pike at or 763.432.2032.

One Big Question:

Each issue we will explore an issue pertinent to the co-op sector as a whole or to a particular group by asking one question to an expert. It is our hope that by learning about issues that others are facing you'll come to learn more about all co-ops in our area and, hopefully, discover something to spark conversation at your own co-op. The opinions expressed are those of the expert and should not be construed as advice.

Human Rights

Our expert this month is Celia Chandler a Partner at Iler Campbell LLP, a progressive legal firm based in Toronto. She conducted a terrific workshop on resolving Human Rights conflicts at the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada's Annual General Meeting in Charlottetown PEI attended by steering committee member Dan Bazuin. Much of the talk around the tables was about one question and this is it:

GTA Housing Co-ops are complaining that they are unfairly impacted by changes in the Ontario Human Rights system. Do you think they have a case?

Celia: On June 30, 2008, the Ontario human rights system was substantially changed. Until then, the Human Rights Commission undertook an investigative role, receiving complaints and determining whether it was necessary for a hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal. For seven years now, Ontario has had a direct access system, where people who feel their rights have been infringed can apply directly to the Human Rights Tribunal for a determination. In our experience, this has resulted in many more human rights complaints, - now called applications - being filed by co-op members against their co-ops. The same is true, however, for other housing providers, employers, and those who provide services. The system is simply easier to get access to and the numbers therefore increased.

Dan: But have co-ops been affected more than others?

Celia: Maybe. Co-ops are populated by diverse people with characteristics that are protected by the Human Rights Code, maybe in higher concentrations than in the general population. For example, because many housing co-op units are subsidized, and many people on subsidy receive ODSP, then perhaps there is a higher proportion of people in
co-ops who are disabled. Similarly, many co-op members are aging in place - perhaps
co-ops have a higher concentration of people who are older, and therefore could make arguments about age related discrimination. And finally, co-ops often attract new Canadians and therefore, perhaps, there are more people from other countries, per capita, then in other housing providers.

At the same time, though, housing co-ops are governed within the framework of the
co-operative principles - key among them is principle #1 which specifically requires that membership be open, “without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination”. Co-op organizations conduct regular education sessions on a wide range of issues - including human rights. Co-op bylaws often include a commitment to human rights - often indeed co-ops have specific bylaws dedicated to human rights. Co-op members, boards and staff, should therefore hold principles of human rights near and dear and operate accordingly.

Dan: Is the cost of accommodating under the Human Rights Code biased against co-ops? 

Celia: I would say no. Built into the human rights framework is the principle that accommodation is only to the point of undue hardship, with cost being a factor for consideration. If the cost to accommodate will threaten the financial viability of an organization, the organization does not have to accommodate in that way. For example, because it has more money, Rogers Communications will be expected to pay more to accommodate a human rights request than will a non-profit, including a housing co-op.

Where perhaps co-ops and other non-profits bear a disproportionate share in dealing with human rights issues is in the damage awards and the costs to defend. If a co-op is found to have violated the Code and has to pay damages to a co-op member, there is no principle that we’re aware of that limits the amount of the damage award based on the ability of the co-op to pay. Similarly, the cost to defend a human rights application will more or less be consistent, regardless of the nature of the organization defending. But as with any organization, a housing co-op would likely be covered for the damage award and the legal costs, at least in part, by their insurance policy.

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