Indigenous Cooperatives in Canada: The Complex Relationship between Cooperatives, Community Economic Development, Colonization, and Culture
32 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 13, 2015
This paper describes the intersection of the cooperative movement and Indigenous communities in Canada. The paper brings a lens of nation and race to an analysis of the cooperative movement in Canada, a perspective that has received limited attention in published literature. Cooperatives have had a dual role in Indigenous communities. The history of Indigenous cooperative development in Canada is inseparable from historical government colonization policies. In the current context, cooperatives have been utilized by Indigenous communities as a tool for economic and social development. Indigenous cooperatives demonstrate innovative combinations of “quadruple bottom line” business approaches, including financial, social, environmental and cultural goals. The extraordinary growth of Indigenous cooperatives in Canada, particularly in Inuit communities in the North, has also been supported by government policy implementation including financial and technical management support. A pan-Arctic comparison of government policies affecting development of cooperatives is provided as counter examples against the hypothesis of “cultural fit” between cooperatives and Indigenous communities. Ultimately, cooperatives are explained as an organizational form that can be co-opted for colonization or decolonization, capitalism or socialism, settler or Indigenous communities for their own specific purposes.
Keywords: Indigenous, cooperatives, quadruple bottom line, community economic development, colonization, culture, Canada
JEL Classification: A13; J15; P13; P16; Z13
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