Today we wish to pay tribute to one of our earliest board members, Bruce Thordarson, whose arrangements we handled in 2018, and to express our deepest gratitude to Conrad Thordarson, who recently chose to honour Bruce’s legacy through a donation to FCO of $70,000. This generous gift will support our co-operative’s services and our growth and development. Mr. Thordarson has also made a gift to the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan to support an annual scholarship granted in memory of Bruce and his father Leo Thordarson.
1948 - 2018
Brilliant yet always humble, Bruce Thordarson left an indelible mark on the global co-operative movement. Born in Mozart, Saskatchewan in 1948, he studied at the University of Saskatchewan and later at Carleton University. Following the presentation of his 1971 thesis on federal policy making under the first Trudeau administration, he worked at Canada’s Parliamentary Centre for Foreign Affairs and then for Manpower and Immigration, experiences that informed his subsequent writings on Canadian foreign policy and federal leadership.
Mr. Thordarson entered the world of co-operatives in 1976 when he took up the position of Director of Government Affairs at the Canadian Co-operative Credit Society. In 1979 he became Executive Director of the Co-operative Union of Canada and in 1985 he moved to the International Cooperative Alliance, where he was promoted to Director General in 1988.
Mr. Thordarson’s leadership at the ICA was transformational. His 1995 article “Co-operatives and Sustainable Human Development” inspired the UN General Assembly to declare a special International Credit Union Day. He played a leading role in the extensive consultation of the co-operative movement that led to the drafting by Dr. Ian MacPherson of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity,which still inspires the global co-operative movement, and organized the highly successful 1995 ICA Centennial Congress at which the statement was adopted. Among his contributions was the reshaping of the ICA into a global body with a regional structure, a change driven by his belief that it was time to accord full equality of status to the global south.
After leaving the ICA in 2001, Mr. Thordarson remained active in the co-operative movement until his death in 2018. He consulted to co-operatives in Indonesia and Vietnam and assisted with seminars in Indonesia. Among his last contributions was his service from 2012 to 2015 on the board of directors of the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa.
Mr. Thordarson remained close to his wife Brigitta from their divorce until his death and was much loved by the many friends he had made in Ottawa and throughout the world.