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The Social Economy and Health Care

The intent of this webpage is to draw attention to current debates about the roles of the social economy in relation to health care in Canada. These debates are often heated, and it is important that information about the issues be widely available. For example, some social economy initiatives are seen by proponents as improving access to quality health care, while others argue that these same social economy initiatives undermine universal access to health care and undermine the public health care system currently in place. Issues of access, relation to existing programs and services, inclusiveness, democratic control, and so on, are important to consider whatever the specific initiative being developed. The material on this page offers an entry point to the discussion.

Canadian Social Economy Hub's Telelearning Session 21: Co-operative Health-Care

To listen to the podcast (mp3 file), click here.


Many Canadians are both proud and worried about health care. For decades it has been a defining aspect of our nationality, a subject of immense pride -- as well as a deliverer of good services. The system is now often in question and despite its strengths, many wonder if it could not be improved. Co-operative health services in Canada and many other parts of the world provide excellent services based on concerns about community health as well as individual health and on encouraging individual citizens to assume greater responsibility for their own health. During this session speakers will address the following questions:

1. What is the extent and nature of the health co-operatives in your province?
2. What are the new initiatives?
3. What are the obstacles to future development?

Canada has a new federation representing health care co-operatives. The
inaugural meeting and conference of the Health Care Co-operatives Federation of 
Canada took place in Regina on July 7-9, 2011. Representatives of 14 co-ops from six 
provinces attended the meeting, as well as Benoît Caron, executive director of the 
Quebec Federation of Homecare and Health Co-operatives. Several other co-operatives
from across the country who were not able to attend expressed support for the 
new federation.  The conference was sponsored by the Canadian 
Co-operative Association(through the National Advisory Services component 
of the Co-operative Development Initiative), The Co-operators and 
For more information about the new federation go to: 

Conference –September 2006

Sculpting Health Care Policy: The Social Economy and Mutual Self-Help  

 The Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network organized a session on health care as part of the Atlantic Provinces Political Science Association conference Sept 15-17. This was open to conference delegates, students and the general public. 

Chair: Leslie Brown, Mount Saint Vincent University

Panelist: Ian Johnson, Vice Chairperson, Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network- Notes for a Presentation on The Role of Community Health Centres in Public Health Care  (pdf, 152.55KB)

Panelist: David Zitner, Dalhousie University - Health Care: An Unregulated Monopoly (pdf, 116.33KB)  

Panelist: Dianne Kelderman, Nova Scotia Co-operative Council - Connecting People for Health: A New Generation of Co-operatives   (pdf, 683.53KB)

Discussant: Luc Thériault, University of New Brunswick

 Other Points of View, Papers, Presentations, and Links 

This 2004 editorial describes a planned health care co-operative in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, however the co-op never went into operation.

The CCA Newsletter gives an overview of Health Care Co-operatives by providing: a brief history of Canada’s health care system, links to currently existing Health Care Co-operatives, numerous inequities in the current health care system, the report released by Commissioner Roy Romanow (2002), and looks at the potential future of Health Care Co-operatives from both a local and global perspective.

  • Centre for Community Enterprise – English

This site features Making Waves Magazine, a quarterly publication specifically on the topic of community economic development. This special edition outlines “the case for a vast expansion of community-level capacity and authority in our health sector”, and is available online.

  • Centre for Community Enterprise - French

"Contrôle communautaire des soins de santé."  Un numéro spécial du magazine Making Waves - automne 2007

Researchez <santé> sur ce site

Porte-parole des coopératives francophones

Santé - Positionnement et orientations

A report to the Secretary of State Andy Mitchell by the minister's advisory committee on co-operatives, November 2002.

This paper debates Canada’s health care policy and whether or not co-operative health care would be a cure for the current ailing Medicare structure in Canada.

Providing an overview and brief history of health care co-operatives, this paper details the current co-operative trends in Canada and offers an option for Canada’s current health care system.

"Health co-ops around the world are a series of publications showing the contribution of health co-ops in the health system from a national perspective".

The HEU supports community health care co-operatives and have produced a book to assist in their endeavor.

Uniting, representing and serving co-operatives worldwide.

  • L'Alliance de recherche universités-communautés en économie sociale (ARUC-ÉS)

Renouveler le système de santé grâce à la voie coopérative

Investigating the Health Care Act and the operating principals of our health care system, it is argued that the full potential of the co-operative health care model is not being utilized. Directions for change are proposed and recommendations are made so the co-operative model could be used to provide a sustainable health care system for Canadians.

A presentation of the Magna/Angus study on CHCC’s, identifies characteristics of a good CHCC. Offers recommendations for a CHCC strategy, and provides specifics and considerations for a CHCC system.


v      To access a community health care centre in your province, go to the website for the Canadian Alliance of Community Health Care Associations.

Examples of Health Care Co-operatives in the Atlantic Region: 

Providing mental health services to individuals and their families.

  • Mud Creek Medical Co-op – Wolfville, Nova Scotia

In operation since 2004, this family based and walk-in clinic is owned by the doctors and nurses who work at the co-operative with no fees to patients for usage unless type of care is exempt by MSI. There is no website currently available for this organization but one will be operational in the future.

In 1971, local residents founded this centre due to the need for health care services in a particularly “unique and culturally diverse” area of Halifax. This Health Care Centre partners with local community organizations and health providers, and serves as an environment in which students can learn the health care profession. This is not a co-operative, but is run by the local community.

Information on Health Care Co-operatives in the remainder of Canada:

This co-operative is made up of doctors, health professionals and individuals    

from the community who strive to improve health care services in Aylmer.

Provides further links to Health Care Co-operatives in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

"Une réponse toujours adaptée à vos besoins de mieux-être"

Founded in 1962, this health services co-operative is member based and operates the community clinic in Saskatoon.

Click here for a resource on health coops in Canada, the USA and around the world from Sherbrook University (L'Université de Sherbrooke) (also available en francais).

Click for the Report: The Role of Co-operatives in Health Care: National and International Perspectives. An international Conference, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 30 October 2008. "On 30 October 2008, the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan and the Community Health Co-operative Federation hosted representatives of the International Co-operative Alliance’s International Health Co-operative Organization for a one-day symposium on the role of co-operatives in health care delivery. Presentations on international health co-operatives, which are summarized in this report, include the following:

• Health Co-operatives around the World

• Japanese Co-operatives in Japan and the Nagano Health Co-operative

• Health Co-operatives in Spain"

Thanks to summer 2008 Communications Assistant Sue Pottie for her assistance in developing this page in consultation with Leslie Brown.

The last report of the series Health Co-operative Around the World is now
available. (also available
En français)

Under the name, “Global background and trends from a health and social care
perspective”, this document is meant to provide readers with background
information to facilitate the understanding of the country case studies in
which the health co-operatives have developed.  It defines the concept of
health co-operative and provides a review of the conclusions of the first ever
global survey on co-operatives in the health sector published in 1997 by the
United Nations, “Cooperative Enterprise in the Health and Social Care Sectors –
A Global Survey” which paved the way for the IHCO 2007 study. It also
illustrates global developments, trends and issues concerning co-operatives in
the health sector and how they have evolved since the 1990’s.
Furthermore, this document outlines the methodology and framework used to
produce the case studies on the state of health co-operatives in various