Credit unions have been serving Canadians since 1900. That was the year Alphonse Desjardins founded the first Caisse Populaire in Lewis, Quebec. Credit Unions began as an alternative to commercially centralized, largely inaccessible banking system. Today, they still occupy a unique place in the Canadian financial services industry.
In a credit union, policies and procedures are set and monitored by a volunteer board of elected directors. The day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer. The democratic structure of credit unions is what makes them unique. Each credit union member has one vote and an equal voice in the management and direction of a credit union. Credit unions in Canada co-operate as part of a three-tier system – local, provincial and national.
Credit unions differ from banks and trust companies in that their members democratically run them, whereas at a bank or trust company you are only a customer. The primary reason for the existence of credit unions is to serve their members’ financial needs, whereas banks and trust companies exist to earn dividends for shareholders.
Credit unions are among the soundest financial institutions in Canada. The Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO) insures Canadian currency deposits repayable no later than five years from the date of deposit, including interest, to a maximum of $100,000 per individual; and insures each separate RRSP/RRIF/OHOSP contract and each unique trust or joint account to a maximum of $100,000 per account.
The globe symbolizes the worldwide scope of the movement and suggests the impact that a truly united movement can have on the financial development of all countries. The people within the globe represent the real focus of the credit union movement. It is the human element – the harmony of people working for people – that distinguishes credit unions from other financial institutions.
The Hands and Globe became the official World Council of Credit Unions trademark in 1966, and today it is the recognized credit union symbol in more than 70 countries around the world.
Credit unions are regulated in accordance with the “Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act” of the provincial government.