National


The persons and ideas of the Antigonish Movement have played a strong role in many national organizations and endeavours. A.B. MacDonald, the assistant director of Extension, left in 1943 to become the national secretary of the Co-operative Union of Canada [CUC], the national voice of credit unions. At the CUC, MacDonald worked on several important projects, and in assuming the mantle of national leadership, extended the vision of the Antigonish Movement across Canada. MacDonald also introduced Cooperatives for American Remittances to Europe (C.A.R.E) to Canada and for two years was national chairman of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. Coady, in the last two decades of his life during the 1940’s and 1950’s, spoke at countless national-level meetings and conferences. In 1949, he was elected president of the CAAE and was later succeeded by Alex Laidlaw who had replaced MacDonald as the assistant director of Extension in 1944.

From its early days, Extension provided expertise and assistance to hundreds of requests for help from other Canadian organizations. This important support work resulted in significant gains for the cooperative movement. For instance, Norman Mackenzie, a young divinity student at the University of Toronto, decided to do graduate work in cooperatives. He wrote to Extension and was assigned to work in the Cape Breton Highlands for a year. Then, when the Extension Department of the University of British Columbia was looking for someone to organize credit unions, MacKenzie was invited to Prince Rupert. There he helped set up a successful credit union which financed a fisherman’s co-op which went on to grow into a west coast version of the United Maritime Fishermen. Credit unions took hold in BC where one of the world’s largest, VanCity, now prospers. 

The Antigonish Movement greatly benefited the labour movement. One example is John Delaney (husband of Ida Delaney) who as a young man was a charter member and director of the Glace Bay Central Credit Union. In 1950, he was elected an International Board Member for District 26 of the United Mine Workers of America and later held high administrative positions at the national and international levels. As well, he was a member of the Medicare Commission appointed to advise the federal government on the creation of its public medical system in the 1960s.

In the early 1970s, the Extension Department helped launch the Atlantic Regional Labour Education Centre. ARLEC sought to improve the social knowledge, communication skills and self-confidence of unionists through an eight-week summer course held at St.F.X. Many ARLEC graduates translated their training into new careers. In 1977, 67 delegates to the Canadian Labour Congress convention and 10 provincial political candidates in Newfoundland were ARLEC alumni. Another testament to ARLEC's effectiveness, and the ongoing impact of the Antigonish Movement, was the prominent role an ARLEC graduate played in the Newfoundland asbestos workers' fight for better health conditions.