Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Alphonse Desjardins. Have you heard my name before? It is still today associated with Caisses Desjardins Financial Group. Let me explain why this financial group was named after me.

In 1854, I was born in Levis to a large family that didn’t have a lot of money.  At that time, most of Quebec’s population was Francophone and lived in the country.  It was hard to make a living from farming the land. At that time the harvests were not good and many farmers had huge debts. Banks were usually located in cities and only did business with shop owners, industries and rich families. The poor people who lived in the country couldn’t save any money or get any credit.

I became aware of the country’s social and economic problems while I was working at the House of Commons. I decided to look for ways to allow a greater number of people to be able to get loans. Using a European model for rural caisses and people’s banks,I started my own cooperative. This is how on December 6, 1900, I founded the the first Caisse Populaire in Levis near Quebec City. It encouraged working class people to deposit their savings and borrow money.

I also initiated my fellow citizens to the idea of saving money for life’s unforeseen events such as unemployment and illness. When I died in 1920, Quebec had 140 Casise Populaire branches with more than 30 000 members.

Author:   Service national du Récit de l’univers social

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