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Gay Lea Dairy Museum honours Mauril Bélanger

Building named for respected co-operative champion at second annual Co-opalooza event

AYLMER, ON – June 19, 2017: The Gay Lea Dairy Museum celebrated co-operatives and honoured late Liberal Member of Parliament Mauril Bélanger this weekend with an eponymous building at the site of a planned Co-operative Education Centre (CEC) in Aylmer, Ontario.

The announcement was made by Gay Lea Foods Chair, Steve Dolson, and President & CEO, Michael Barrett, as the co-operative hosted the second annual Co-opalooza on Saturday, June 17. Bélanger’s wife, Catherine Bélanger, participated in the event along with local Member of Parliament, Karen Vecchio (Elgin-Middlesex-London).

The Canadian co-operative sector is a renowned positive economic and societal force with a rich history of contributing to the sustainability and well-being of communities. The proposed CEC at the Gay Lea Dairy Museum will build on this legacy by supporting the development of future leaders and promoting co-operative values to grow sustainable businesses, and encourage social responsibility. Throughout his life and political career, Bélanger held these values close to his heart, and was a tireless champion of the co-operative model as a proven structure for the success and betterment of Canadian communities.

The Gay Lea Foods Co-opalooza event highlights the positive contributions of Canadian co-operatives and brings together local co-ops from a variety of sectors to enjoy an afternoon of music, food and family fun in a beautiful country setting.

second annual Co-opalooza event

Co-opalooza 2017 marks the beginning of an exciting time of milestones for Gay Lea Foods and Ontario’s co-operative industry:

The 50th anniversary of the Ontario Co-operative Association’s Co-operative Young Leaders program – This year’s Co-opalooza celebrates 50 years of the CYL program and its acclaimed week-long summer camp experiences that bring together teenagers from across Ontario to learn leadership and communication skills through co-operative activities.

Community & education initiatives at the Gay Lea Dairy Museum – Offering a variety of educational programs, workshops and activities for local schools and community members, the Gay Lea Dairy Museum’s community and education initiatives extend beyond dairy to encompass everything from agriculture, geography, Canadian history, art/graphic design, team building, communication skills, and co-operative principles.

The 60th anniversary of Gay Lea Foods – 2018 will be a year of celebration and innovation for Canada’s second-largest dairy co-operative, with members on more than 1,300 dairy cow and goat farms.

Development of a Co-operative Education Centre – Plans are underway to develop a collaborative, year-round, industry Co-operative Education Centre on the Gay Lea Dairy Museum site.

second annual Co-opalooza event


“I am pleased and immensely proud to be here today as Gay Lea Foods and the Ontario co-operative community bestows this honour upon my husband. Mauril believed that co-operatives played an important role in the future of the Canadian economy and was a passionate advocate for promoting, developing and uniting co-operatives and credit unions in Canada. It is extremely gratifying to know that his contributions are recognized and will be remembered as the community he so valued moves to create a place grow and strengthen the Canadian co-operative movement.”

– Catherine Bélanger

“Throughout his impressive career, there was no stronger advocate for Canadian co-operatives than my friend and colleague, Mauril Bélanger. The dedication of the Mauril Bélanger Cabin at the future Co-operative Education Centre is a wonderful tribute to his legacy. Mauril’s passion and hard work on behalf of co-operatives played an important role in our economy, and his remarkable contribution is one that we all celebrate. The co-operative model offers a positive example of what can be accomplished by working together to build businesses, create good middle-class jobs and grow our economy.”

– Hon. Bardish Chagger, Government House Leader and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

“Gay Lea Foods is honoured to have Catherine Bélanger with us at the Gay Lea Dairy Heritage Museum today as we celebrate the legacy of her husband, Mauril Bélanger, who was a true advocate for co-operatives and co-operative values. We are proud of the important role our sector plays in the Canadian economy and in the communities where our families and friends live, work and play. Co-opalooza is another opportunity for us to pause and appreciate the privilege we have, as Canadians, on this monumental year for our country.”

– Steve Dolson, Chair, Gay Lea Foods

“We are enormously proud of the momentum Gay Lea Foods is helping to create in the co-operative community, as evidenced by the success of our second annual Co-opalooza event. As we continue to strengthen and grow the co-operative sector for the betterment of Canadians, we recognize the leaders who blazed the trail for us. We are honoured to be able to recognize the leadership and personal story that the Hon. Mauril Bélanger fiercely promoted for co-operatives in Ottawa as we begin to build a place for future co-operative leaders to learn and build on this legacy.”

– Michael Barrett, President and CEO, Gay Lea Foods

“Celebrating the 50th year of Co-operative Young Leaders is an incredible accomplishment. This program has been instrumental in promoting and nurturing the co-operative leadership of today, and will continue to develop our strong leaders for tomorrow in the tradition of the Hon. Mauril Belanger. He truly was an inspirational Co-op Champion.”

– Peter Cameron, Acting Executive Director, Ontario Co-operative Association

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Twitter: @DairyMuseum /

The Gay Lea Dairy Heritage Museum celebrates the rich agricultural history of Ontario and Canada. Begun as the pet project of an Aylmer, ON farm couple and purchased in 2008 by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd., the Museum has grown to include a fascinating collection of heritage artifacts and dynamic educational programs. The Museum and its brand-new classroom and meeting facilities are nestled in 98-acres of bucolic Carolinian forest.

For more information about the Ontario Co-operative Association’s Co-operative Young Leaders program, visit:


Robin Redstone
Communications Manager, Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited
(905) 399-0403 /

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