Antigonish Movement

An example of Religion contributing to the betterment of man.

The other day I was listening to “In the Field” on CBC radio 1 (I have become extremely interested in CBC as of late). A story caught my imagination. A man, whom upon further research, I have come to respect, is Father Jimmy Tompkins. He started a movement to improve the lives of the citizens in a resource based community in Nova Scotia, Reserve Mines. He decided that to improve a community, the residents needed education. He accomplished this through confrontation, “nagging” and reading used as a confessional penance.

For those who do not know what the Antigonish Movement is I will explain it to you briefly. Antigonish, Nova Scotia was a community where the Co-op movement was developed in Canada. Father Jimmy spearheaded (with the help of several community leaders including but not limited to A.B. McDonald, Rev. Huge McPherson, and Father Moses Coady) several community events to help improve the citizen’s way of life. He began a cooperative adult education program, financial institution, agriculture program and housing developments. This man inspired people to spread the word about improving everyone lives through social justice improvements. The inspiration spread across the globe and has gained new light through a recent revival in a play written by Lindsay Kyte, the great niece of Joe Laben ( ).

While I have not seen the play (and I would love to see this come to Winnipeg), I can say that this story has inspired me to look further into this topic. Why? Because, I am a huge promoter of education being used to make the world better. I am a firm believer that it does not take money to make the world a better place; rather it takes education and purpose to bring communities and the world together for a common purpose, the betterment of everything. Cooperative movements lean toward a society dedicated to the search for knowledge and the drive to work to better your community rather than for a monetary exchange. This system may be an example of how a community can come together to assist each other without resorting to an exchange of money. A transaction does take place but it is the exchange of knowledge and not paper money. I call this the Roddenberry Vision of Earth Based Affairs (or RVEBA).

Religion, being the cornerstone of the Nova Scotia community, was used to promote critical thinking and cooperation. While the word of god was most likely preached from the pulpit, so was education. To me, this is the greatest role religion can play in today’s world. Currently, the religious institutions preach ignorance and unquestioning obedience (as Gem discovered evidence of this claim when dealing with a student in a recent lecture) but this man, Father Jimmy, proved that religion can be a force for progression and change if the correct person with a vision is delivering the message.

Ms. Kyte can tell the story of her relatives with a lot more passion than I could, so please head on over to CBC to listen to this broadcast :

You can go here: to learn more about the Antigonish Movement.


5 responses

  1. Hi There:

    Thanks for the mention! I am Lindsay Kyte and love what you’ve written. I’ve actually gotten a lot of calls and e-mails about this radio doc and it seems to me that people are still looking for answers the cooperative movement can provide. Father Jimmy continues to inspire us even today. And me every minute I spend writing this play!

    Lindsay Kyte

    • Lindsay,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I recently joined Winnipeg Skeptics Meet-Up group and they inspired me to write on topics that I felt were important. Your play and story hit me as an extremely important point in the debate on the topic “Is religion a force for good in this word?”. While I still maintain that religion is not a force for good, I do relish in stories such as yours in pointing out the fallacies in my argument.

      I would love to see your play and hear more of your thoughts on this. As someone with first hand experience in this movement, I hope you understand the magnitude of this often understated concept. This movement has spread across the globe as a force for real measurable positive change.

      I hope I make sense, it’s first thing in the morning and my coffee is still not ready. Please drop me a line anytime on my blog. If you and/or your play decide to come to Winnipeg let me know so I can be the first person greet you or to buy a ticket, respectively.

      Robert Shindler (aka Jusarious)

      • Hi Robert:

        Wow! Thanks so much! I am actually home in Cape Breton for the holidays and needed to take a break from the overwhelming response to that documentary and to my play. I don’t think I did realize the magnitude of this message. People are writing me from all over Canada asking me to speak at conferences and when the play will be ready. I get the feeling the world is hungry from some change and to see the people beside them as a possibility for making those changes. 2011 is going to be a year of me (unexpectedly!) stepping into the shoes of where my Uncle Joe Laben left off and spreading the word of the cooperative movement, a subject about which I am extremely passionate and now very well-informed after years of research. I will let you know when (I say “when” now!) we bring the play to Winnipeg!

        Lindsay Kyte

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