Setting the Heather on Fire – The Antigonish Movement

Submitted by Al Etmanski on March 20, 2015 - 9:34am

I fell in love with Nova Scotia in the 1970’s.

It started in Antigonish – green rolling hills, sea bound coast, hundreds of fiddlers performing under the summer stars, John Allen Cameron singing at a local club, caber tossing, and the Coady Institute. The Coady Institute is the inheritor of the famous Antigonish Movement started by two radical priests in the wake of the depression, Father Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins, who happened to be cousins.

The Antigonish Movement blended social action, economic cooperation and adult education. Father Coady believed, “Human energy must be unleashed by the universal dissemination of ideas.” The basic approach of Coady and Tompkins was the formation of study clubs to address the immediate economic needs of local farmers, miners, fishers and others living in poverty.

At its height the Antigonish Movement launched 1100 study groups with 11,000 members, hundreds of credit unions and a range of coop stores, buying clubs, fish plants, lobster factories and housing throughout Eastern Canada. It’s impossible to visit Nova Scotia today without bumping into the cooperative economy or the community based leadership it ignited.

Alas the Antigonish Movement is better known outside Canada nowadays. Its values, ideas and methods attracted so much interest from South America, Europe, Africa and Asia that the Coady International Institute was created in 1959.

Today Coady brings Canadians and people from the global South together to create effective, practical and sustainable solutions to reduce global poverty and injustice.  There are more than 5,000 Coady graduates and partners working in 130 countries and impacting millions.

The Antigonish Movement anticipated the work of the Brazilian adult educator, Paulo Freire as well as the self-help movement. A proud heritage, alive and actively contributing thanks to Coady