150+ Canadians Day 52: Moses Coady

Moses Coady contributed to peace by improving the lives of others through adult education and cooperatives. #Canada150

A Roman Catholic Priest, adult educator and co-operative entrepreneur, Coady was concerned about the poverty afflicting farmers, fishers, miners and other disadvantaged groups in Eastern Canada and the exodus of maritimers to other parts of Canada.

In 1924, regional economic conditions were difficult for many people. There was labour unrest in the Cape Breton coal mines and continuing out-migration caused by economic decline. These factors profoundly affected the Diocese of Antigonish whose socially minded priests were searching for ways to counteract these problems.

In his early career while working for St. Francis Xavier Highschool in Truro, NS, Coady was dissatisfied with the working conditions and pay of the teachers. He suggested the Teachers Association strike an organizing committee, hire a paid organizer, and start a magazine for teachers. Members agreed and appointed him to the task; by early 1923, one-half of Nova Scotia teachers were paid members of the union. He started the teachers bulletin, and as editor, lobbied hard for higher teachers’ salaries and other benefits.

He developed what became known as the Antigonish Movement.  The project helped Coady put into practice his theory that “the short, quick, scientific way to progress in the world, even in the field of formal education of youth, was through the enlightenment and education of adults.” The leaders of this movement viewed their task as developing the full economic, social and cultural potential of the people in their region. Dr. Coady and his associates used adult education, group action, and development of cooperative business models to meet the immediate economic needs of the local people.

After World War II, increasing numbers of people interested in the co-op movement were coming to St.F.X., many of them Catholic clergy and leaders from third world countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia. The high profile of the Antigonish Movement and the renewed interest from abroad attracted some attention from the American government that saw it as a promising means to combat communism in the Cold War era.

A heart attack in February 1952 forced Coady’s resignation from his full-time career, but he was unwilling to stop his activism, continuing to improve lives through education. He remained active in his retirement years writing many letters, giving numerous speeches and conceiving new community development strategies until his death in 1959.

Bonus Editor’s content: We found this great documentary on Youtube here. In the first minute, a Nova Scotia MP, and colleague of Coady’s shares stories from the time they first met.

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