What a long way we’ve come in 40 years!
What a long way we’ve come in 40 years! Starting from a small grassroots initiative in the late 1970s, the Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais (CFO) has performed beyond all expectations. It has conquered a market previously dominated by powerful private competitors, and now serves thousands of members accounting for 80% of funeral services in the region. Here are some historical milestones of the past four decades.
Funeral costs in Quebec reach $144 million, and families spend on average 18% more on their departed than other Canadians.
In February, a day centre for seniors—the Centre d'amitié de Gatineau—holds a conference that addresses, among other things, the problem of high funeral expenses.
As a result, the CLSC Le Moulin, with the support of the CLSC de Hull, will make it a priority to set up a funeral cooperative. Community organizers Jacques Carrière (Gatineau) and Francine Lepage (Hull) are entrusted with this task.
A “sponsor” committee is created in January and holds a public meeting on March 29th, where some 20 residents agree to sit on an interim council that will lay the foundations for the Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais.
A volunteer task force is formed that will spearhead a campaign with the goal of recruiting 1,000 members.
In November, the CFO is granted a charter that recognizes its legal existence under the Cooperative Associations Act.
The cooperative’s first general meeting takes place on December 19th and elects a board of directors. A hundred members have already been recruited.
The cooperative’s founding board of directors holds its first meeting in January. Total membership reaches 500 by the end of February.
While the idea of a funeral cooperative sprang up in Gatineau, the board of directors decides to locate its premises in Hull because it has a larger elderly population. In August negotiations begin to rent half of the Sainte-Bernadette presbytery.
On September 7th, a financial package is agreed upon with the Quebec government approving a $36,000 grant under its economic solidarity program. The Economic Development Corporation is to provide a $26,000 loan, while the Caisse populaire Saint-Joseph de Hull offers a $25,000 line of credit.
In June, the Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais becomes the newest tenant at 11 Sainte-Bernadette St. The target of 2,000 members is reached.
By mid-September, the CFO has recruited its first embalmer, Claude Gascon, and opens its doors to the public.
The “official” opening is held on September 18th with the participation of His Excellency Bishop Adolphe Proulx of Hull and Mayor Michel Légère. About 300 people attend the event.
In July, the CFO enters into a partnership with the Coopérative funéraire du Nord in Chénéville, the oldest such institution in the Outaouais region.
In accord with the founders’ wishes that facilities be opened in Gatineau as quickly as possible, the board of directors agrees on August 23rd to lease premises at 200, chemin de la Savane, in Pointe-Gatineau for three years.
The Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais becomes profitable after only three years of operation as it registers its first surplus ($1,952).
By the end of 1984, the CFO was operating facilities in Hull and Gatineau. It will also manage a satellite in Saint-Pierre-de-Wakefield until 1987.
The cooperative moves its Gatineau operations to new premises at 664 Maloney Blvd. E.
By the end of Executive Director Bernard Laverdure’s tenure, CFO membership has grown to more than 4,600. That year, the cooperative held 277 funerals and made about 100 prearrangements.
It finds itself at a crossroads, and this will lead to decisions that will propel it to the top of the funeral industry in the Outaouais.
The Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais is one of the chief architects of the revival of the Federation of Funeral Cooperatives of Québec (FCFQ).
In November, a special general meeting of the CFO agrees to a merger with the Coopérative funéraire du Nord, in Chénéville. The merger will officially occur in January 1995.
Service Corporation International (SCI), a U.S. company, buys out the Beauchamp funeral home (1994) and the Gauvreau funeral home (1995). To counter this American presence and increase its market share, the CFO decides to modernize its facilities.
Tensions exist between the Jardins du Souvenir and funeral homes.
In November 1995, the CFO announces the creation of a new funeral complex on La Vérendrye Boulevard in Gatineau. “The cooperative approach can effectively counter an American takeover,” Executive Director Francine Bélec argues.
The cooperative is also seeking to relocate its Hull facilities.
On June 15th, a new multipurpose complex opens its doors at 1369 La Verendrye Blvd. in Gatineau. The 300 people who visit that day are impressed by the funeral centre, undoubtedly the most beautiful of its kind in the Outaouais.
The facility includes offices, two funeral parlours, a ceremonial hall, a reception room, a private family room, two rest areas, a columbarium, a showroom for coffins and urns, a large embalming laboratory and a six-car garage.
The Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais receives two awards from the FCFQ for funeral cooperative of the year, and best co-op in the economic development category.
CFO workers form a union.
The cooperative signs a partnership agreement with the Jardins du Souvenir. In exchange for the land adjacent to the Saint-Rédempteur cemetery, the Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais grants the exclusivity of its cremations for the next 20 years to the Jardins du Souvenir.
A first collective agreement is signed between the cooperative and the employees’ union.
The cooperative acquires the J. Hubert Villeneuve funeral homes in Thurso and Ripon to improve services to residents in these communities, including members of the former Coopérative funéraire du Nord.
The CFO picks up assets of the bankrupted Laviolette and Robinson funeral home and takes over all its funeral prearrangements, even those for which all the money had not been deposited in trust.
The cooperative develops and implements a computerized client management system.
During the FCFQ convention taking place in Hull in 1999, the Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais receives awards of excellence in two categories: cooperative enterprise development, and inter-cooperation and involvement in the community.
On October 13th, the CFO inaugurates its second multifunctional funeral complex at 95 de la Cité-des-Jeunes Blvd. in Hull and closes its first funeral home on Sainte-Bernadette Street.
The innovative architecture of the new complex departs from the traditional funeral parlour and incorporates a garden and skylights that bathe common areas in plenty of natural light.
The building includes the CFO’s offices, two lounges with a small private room for families, a ceremonial hall for 250 people, a reception room, two rest areas, and a columbarium visible night and day from the outside.
As part of this inauguration, the cooperative celebrated its 20th anniversary.
From December 2000 to January 2001, a labour dispute led to a 42-day lockout.
The cooperative’s board of directors sets up a joint committee to settle irritants between the union and management.
The CFO becomes the largest funeral cooperative in Canada in terms of funerals handled (712) and assets ($9.5 million)
In July, the cooperative takes over the funeral prearrangements made by the Jardins du Souvenir before 1996—the year that they had agreed to no longer compete with other funeral homes.
The Coopérative funéraire de l’Outaouais establishes an Internet presence with the launch of its website www.cfo.coop.
A TV show on the history of the cooperative is produced.
The CFO is named Funeral Cooperative of the Year in Quebec.
CFO acquires the Gauvreau et Fils funeral homes in Gatineau and Sainte-Cécile-de-Masham and the Maison Daniel Brunet in Buckingham. These two companies had belonged to the American multinational SCI (Service Corporation International) since 1995 and 1999, respectively.
The funeral cooperative adopts a sustainable development policy and permanently shifts to an ecological approach.
The funeral cooperative opens a subsidiary in Saint-André-Avellin.
The CFO purchases a crematorium.
The cooperative moves its Buckingham facilities to a new location at 116 Maclaren E., near the church of Saint-Grégoire-de-Nazianze.
A columbarium expansion project in the Hull sector is launched.
CFO acquires the Serge Legault funeral home, the city’s last private funeral operator.
The cooperative passes the 20,000-member mark (20,742 at the end of the year).
The value of the funeral cooperative’s prearrangement portfolio exceeds $20 million ($21,515,982 at the end of 2017!)
The cooperative opens a brand new funeral home in Saint-André-Avellin, at 526, Patrice Street.
A new funeral home is also being planned and inaugurated in Thurso, at 336, Victoria Street.
A state-of-the-art sound system is installed at the Hull location.
The cooperative produces a series of information capsules about its activities. These podcasts (in French only) can be found under the “Your Cooperative” tab/capsules audio on the www.cfo.coop home page.
INFOjuridic, a support service for members, is launched and becomes a major success.
The cooperative houses its car fleet in a new garage located near the La Vérendrye branch.
CFO operations at La Pêche (Sainte-Cécile-de-Masham) cease but agreements are reached with various community organizations to provide ongoing services to members.
The CFO announces the closure of the funeral home at 750 Maloney Blvd. E. and the beginning of an ambitious redevelopment project at that location.