Paul Chamberlain, Mike Toye, Geneviève Huot, Émilien Gruet


The social and solidarity economy in Canada has a long and rich history of practice, although the conceptualization of these activities and the language used to describe them has varied and continues to evolve.
While co-operatives in Canada have been established for more than a century,  non-profits and community groups combining social and economic objectives only began formally organizing in the last 15 years. This is most advanced in the province of Québec, where strong community sector mobilization in the mid-1990s led to the creation of the Chantier de l’économie sociale. In the rest of Canada, grassroots community action combining economic and social objectives, has tended to be identified under the rubric of community economic development, organized under the  Canadian CED Network since 1999. More recently, the concepts of social enterprise and social finance have begun to gain currency as well, though the term “solidarity economy” is rarely used in Canada.

The last decade has produced significant research and new literature on the social economy in Canada. Public policy is a prominent theme in this work. While the absence of a nationally consistent definition has made precise measurements of the size and scope of the social economy difficult to establish, it is clear that the social economy is active in all the five theme areas under discussion at FIESS.

The paper presents some of the most notable illustrations of collaborative processes between civil society actors and all three levels of government in the development and implementation of supportive public policies. On the whole, Québec offers the only example of co-ordinated and systematic strategies to develop the social economy, although the federal social economy initiative offered the potential of this during its short existence. In provinces other than Québec and in other federal initiatives, measures supporting the development of the social economy are targeted to specific sectors and tend to be fragmented. The Government of Canada is generally not as advanced as many European countries in using co-construction to develop social policy, or in supporting the unifying structures needed to facilitate strong and inclusive civil society participation in the process. Where policies have achieved a degree of prominence at the provincial level within Canada, they are often associated with strong civil society movements, as with the federated structure of the Chantier in Quebec, and the coalition around community economic  development in Manitoba.


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Canada; Social Economy; Public policies

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