Building Inclusive Communities

The More We Get Together

Images courtesy Mark Kmill, Sandy Black, Brandon Camera Club, and Out of This World Café

Images courtesy Mark Kmill, Sandy Black, and Jan and Eric Borley

Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association Co-op

Finding a Voice

In 80 fur blocks spanning the northern two-thirds of Saskatchewan, 2,400 trappers still live off the land. Teaching how to respect nature’s gifts, living a healthy lifestyle, and caring for and enjoying the fruits of the land have been hallmarks of a trapper culture that sustained Aboriginal people for centuries.


The Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association was formed to guide trapping development and advocate for northern trappers. Now that the organization has incorporated as a co-operative, it is using its voice to secure support for trapping, preserve Aboriginal culture, protect the land, increase economic opportunities, practise sustainable food production, encourage young people to relearn their identities, and reconnect the generations for hope, healing, and health.

For more information about this project, see the final report: Self-Determination in Action: The Entrepreneurship of the Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association Co-operative

Images courtesy Isobel Findlay and Teresa Carlson

The Co-operative Model Facilitates Inclusion

Co-operatives build their success on the strength of the group, whose pooled resources can achieve more than any one individual. Co-op members share control of the organization; the one member, one vote principle ensures that each member has an equal say in how the co-op is run. Members set policy, make decisions, and elect a board of directors.



The democratic nature of co-ops empowers their members and ensures inclusion. As active owners, members influence the future of the organization. The co-operative model has allowed members to collaborate and build a vision of the co-operative as a means of renewing traditional trapper values and governance and offering sustainable livelihoods for all.

Images courtesy Isobel Findlay and Dwayne Pattison

Renewing Cultural Identity – The Justice Trapline

“The Grandfather system is in place; young people can learn from the elders; that practice is still there.” – Clifford Ray, NSTAC president

Viewing young people as key actors in the co-op’s future, NSTAC is working hard to include youth and renew their sense of cultural identity. Through school programming and trapper training, the NSTAC shares the knowledge, skills, and benefits of a traditional trapper lifestyle. The Justice Trapline is an initiative designed to engage young people. The pilot project paired young offenders with experienced trappers on the trapline. The youth learned to build cabins and canoes and prepare food and pelts, reconnecting with traditional Aboriginal culture and rebuilding their self-confidence. It also provided them with the knowledge and skills to face life challenges and see trapping as a way of life that can sustain them in their home communities.



Images courtesy Dwayne Pattison and Teresa Carlson

Public Policy and Support Programs

Who’s Making These Rules Anyway?

“When you give a human being a chance at something, it [will really] surprise you how they will strive to get it done. Give them an opportunity, a foot in the door and they will wow you.” – Mila Wong, Sudbury Developmental Services

Public policy is the set of rules or principles that guide government action on particular issues. Policy can evolve over time and is usually influenced by relevant stakeholders. It can sometimes unintentionally produce barriers to personal or community development.

This section explores the policies of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Act and how they help or hinder people with disabilities to become independent of government assistance through safe, secure employment. It also considers whether social enterprises, which are not driven solely by profit making, are well suited as employers of persons with disabilities. The understandings gleaned from this research will help to guide ongoing policy development.


The following examples illustrate how social enterprises are helping to build communities that are more inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Out of This World Café

Bringing Health and Health Care Together

Out of This World Café is a successful social enterprise run by the Ontario Council for Alternative Businesses. It employs individuals coping with mental health issues and is located in the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Offering coffee, snacks, and even a catering service, it provides a popular gathering spot in the hospital. Regular staff meetings ensure that all employees participate in the decision making of the business, and many note the comfortable environment this has created, where everyone understands what it is like to live with a mental illness. A great strength of the café is its flexibility in accommodating the medical needs and schedules of its employees.


Image courtesy Out of This World Café

COIN Food Services

Sharing the Load

COIN may “help society with learning that people with disabilities are just like anyone else and hopefully they see the person first and the disability second.” – Anonymous

“Changing the perception of individuals in the community is critical in reducing the fears and discrimination that developmentally disabled people face. ODSP recipients have a lot to offer and sometimes it may be difficult for employers in the community to recognize their potential.” – Anonymous

COIN (Community Opportunity and Innovation Network) Food Services operates many small businesses that employ people with developmental disabilities. COIN provides its employees with workplace skills development, job coaching, and follow up. Its businesses offer a flexible environment that meets individual needs while still allowing the business to run efficiently.



Social Enterprises Build Inclusive Communities

Help us “Do What We Do Do Well”

The research on the Ontario Disability Support Program demonstrates that social enterprises have the expertise, flexibility, and commitment to respond to an identified community need – in this case, supportive employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Social enterprises have overcome substantial barriers to create successful workplaces and businesses for a segment of the workforce that is often excluded from the labour market.


Government has a responsibility to ensure that all members of society have access to employment. It also has encouragement from stakeholders to address the employment needs of persons with disabilities. Providing leadership and support through enabling policy and public education, government can realize its intention to assist persons with disabilities to become independent of government benefits through safe, secure employment.


For more information on this project, see the final report: Social Enterprises and the Ontario Disability Support Program: A Policy Perspective on Employing Persons with Disabilities. To learn about our other research projects examining opportunities and supports for persons with disabilities, please see the Subject Guide to Centre Publications under the heading Co-operatives — Health Care.

Images courtesy Mark Kmill

Ethnocultural Organizations in Rural Manitoba

Supporting Settlement

Newcomers to Canada face many barriers to successful settlement. This is particularly true in rural areas, where there are few resources to assist immigrants. Despite this, the number of newcomers to rural Manitoba has increased dramatically over the past few years. This has the potential to significantly impact the economic development and demographic growth of communities.



Successful settlement and retention of newcomers requires a welcoming community with adequate supports and resources. Ethnocultural organizations provide language and orientation support, and assistance in preserving culture, religion, ancestral language, and values. They also cultivate social and cultural links to the broader community. Research in urban areas has shown that these organizations are vital to meeting the needs of newcomers and ensuring a vibrant, inclusive, diverse community.


Images courtesy Brandon Camera Club

Creating the Environment

Ethnocultural organizations for newcomers to rural Manitoba are rare. Rural communities often do not have the infrastructure, established institutions, or the volunteer base to ensure adequate services for newcomers, who may face challenges in fostering social networks and meeting basic needs such as housing, education, and employment.



Establishing ethnocultural organizations requires accessible information about the process, committed volunteers, and communities that are open to change. It also requires collaboration among community-based organizations. Sharing best practices, lessons learned, and key challenges has helped create an inclusive, welcoming environment for events such as Steinbach’s Culturama and Brandon’s Winter Festival. These celebrations showcase both immigrant and local culture and heritage, raising awareness of a rich diversity and providing opportunities for newcomers to participate in large community events.


Images courtesy Brandon Camera Club, Jan and Eric Borley, and the Westman Journal

Making it Happen

In October 2008, Brandon’s Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation and Westman Immigrant Services hosted the city’s first immigrant and community service provider fair. Tapestry of Our Community brought together 28 groups to discuss areas of general community concern, and in particular, how to develop programs and services that address the needs of Brandon’s growing immigrant population.


Following on the success of this event, Brandon University’s Rural Development Institute hosted a discussion forum titled Enhancing and Linking Ethnocultural Communities, which began the process of developing networks between ethnocultural communities and other community-based groups. Participants discussed common challenges, effective information exchange, volunteer and member recruitment and retention, cross-cultural understanding, and how to maintain cultural traditions over time.

Images courtesy Brandon Camera Club

Westman Immigrant Services

Westman Immigrant Services provides invaluable assistance to newcomers in rural Manitoba. Its programs include information, orientation, and settlement support, English language programs, employment support, volunteer services, and community outreach and education. It also works with other community groups to build capacity for improving services to immigrants and refugees.


The most difficult barriers faced by newcomers are commonly related to language. In January 2009, the organization initiated the development of a language co-operative, which will address Brandon’s critical need for interpretation and translation services.


Recognizing the strengths and benefits of a culturally diverse society, Westman Immigrant Services helps to ensure that newcomers have the best chance possible to participate in the social, political, cultural, and economic life of their communities.

For more information about this project, see the final report: Enhancing and Linking Ethnocultural Organizations and Communities in Rural Manitoba

Images courtesy Sandy Black

Co-ops: Building Inclusive Communities

Co-operative Women’s Guilds

Women were conspicuously absent in leadership roles and even membership in early co-operatives. The co-operative women’s guilds changed all that. Established in the 1940s and modeled on organizations active in the UK since the 1880s, Canadian guilds encouraged women to take more active roles in the movement and provided a forum for addressing social issues such as women’s rights and improvements in the quality of consumer goods.* The guilds were heavily involved in co-operative education, taking a leading role in delivering programs that educated women about co-operative values and principles and facilitated the development of skills for leadership roles in their co-operatives and their communities. The local guilds also organized activities that provided venues for youth involvement, introducing them to co-operative values at an early age and often laying the foundation for a lifetime of loyalty and leadership within the co-operative movement.
* Ian MacPherson, A Century of Co-operation

QUINT Development Corporation

Formed in 1995, Quint Development Corporation strengthens the economic and social well-being of Saskatoon’s five core neighbourhoods through a community-based economic development approach. Quint is the hub for a coalition of inner-city groups seeking to make positive changes in their community. Quint’s accomplishments include employment and training programs, affordable apartment blocks, and supportive housing for mothers and children who are at risk and for formerly homeless young men. Its best-known initiative is perhaps the Neighbourhood Home Ownership Program (NHOP). Using a unique adaptation of the housing co-operative model, NHOP has assisted more than 100 low-income families to fulfil their dream of becoming homeowners. Quint has also partnered with CHEP Good Food Inc. to develop the Station 20 West Community Enterprise Centre, which will house a community-owned Good Food Junction Co-op food store.

Team Werks Co-operative

Formed in 1998 and operating out of Thunder Bay’s Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital, Team Werks is an innovative worker co-op that provides employment opportunities and support services to clients living with mental illness. The co-op’s aim is to develop work and life skills and aid in the recovery goals of its members. The co-op model provides the added benefit of giving members control of their own enterprise and their employment objectives. But job creation is only one component of the program, which also includes assessments, work placements, and job coaching services. Once they have gained the necessary confidence, skills, and experience, member-owners have the opportunity to move on to other employment in the community, if they so choose.
— Canadian Co-operative Association, New futures: Innovative uses of the co-op model

SEED Winnipeg Inc.

Formed in the late 1980s, Supporting Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Winnipeg Inc. is a nonprofit agency that works to combat poverty and assist in the renewal of Winnipeg’s inner city. It does this by helping low income and other marginalized people start small businesses and save money for future goals. SEED’s Community and Worker Ownership Program (CWOP) helps groups interested in starting or expanding a co-operative business as a means to create quality jobs for low-income individuals. CWOP assists in assessing the group’s skills and resources, developing a business plan, designing organizational structure, accessing financing, providing business management and professional development workshops, and offering support for at least two years after the business launch. SEED’s CWOP initiative has helped create a stronger, healthier, and more inclusive community in Winnipeg’s inner city.
— SEED Winnipeg’s website (