What is the co-operative difference?

Co-ops are democratic
Co-ops are member-owned
Co-ops are ethical
Co-ops build community
Co-ops make the world a better place

Our Co-operative Values

For over 175 years, co-operatives have served their communities. They are driven by the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.

As a worker co-op, CanTrust’s members work and run the business. Members elect a board of directors to oversee the operations and set strategic direction for the organization. What makes co-operatives different is their devotion to their values and the principles of the co-operative movement.

For CanTrust, our purpose and values drive our business. Our purpose is why we do what we do; to provide secure Internet infrastructure to our values-aligned community members and organizations. The co-op values and principles drive how we do what we do.

We believe that providing secure, independent and free (as in freedom) access to the Internet creates a better society. We believe that: 

  • Information should be free, as in freedom
  • Safe, secure and equitable access to technology is a right
  • Technology must support the sustainable evolution of humanity

It is important for us to communicate these core values and purpose. They bring our goals into focus and build a level of accountability into our business. 

“The core ideology embodies the universality of the organization. It is meant to be a source of inspiration and a guide. Its soul.”

– Professor Daniel Côté

Since 2009, our values have served us well. It is exciting to think what CanTrust could accomplish with its clear vision for the future.  Perhaps one day we will meet our goal of being the most trusted secure data storage and hosting company in the world. 

Statement on the Co-operative Identity

Co-operatives around the world share a common foundational ideology, based on the International Cooperative Alliance statement of the cooperative identity, which states that there is a better way to organize our economy that is not based on exploitation.


A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.


Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.  In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.


The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

  1. Voluntary and Open membership
    Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control
    Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions on the principle of one member one vote.  {Folks} serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership.
  3. Member Economic Participation
    Members contribute to and democratically control the capital of their co-operative.  At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative.  The co-operative’s surplus is either distributed to its members in proportion to their transactions with the co-op, or directed to other activities approved by the membership.
  4. Autonomy and Independence
    Co-operatives are autonomous, self help organizations controlled by their members.  If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
  5. Education, Training and Information
    Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives.  They also strive to inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
  6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
    Co-operatives serve their members and strengthen the co-operative movement by working in solidarity with other co-ops and national, regional, and international co-operative organizations.
  7. Concern for Community
    Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Part of the content on this page was originally provided by the BC Co-op Association and is used here in accordance with their Creative Commons license. Thanks BCCA!

Values Alignment: Principles for both ourselves and our customers


Our intention of sharing our commitment with you here is to outline CanTrust’s values-alignment principles which we use to approve applications of interest in CanTrust’s services. As a Co-operative, we believe transparency, open dialogue, and equitable practices are an important aspect of our work. We want to openly share what our expectations are of our clients, as well as how we intend to work with you.

Our Commitment to Building an Egalitarian World

CanTrust Hosting Co-op’s values are rooted in the values and principles of the co-operative movement. We believe in the vision of an egalitarian world. We strive to see human relationships and communities be given more importance than property and capital. We believe that people are inherently caring, social creatures who want to see their communities prosper. CanTrust will not allow on any of its servers or in its day-to-day dealings discrimination that is based on age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, national original, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or other status prohibited by applicable law. In addition, CanTrust will not allow propaganda, blatant misinformation, or misleading information to be hosted on our servers.We require that all of our clients agree to and attest that they also do not discriminate based on the grounds listed above in order to procure CanTrust’s services. CanTrust reserves the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time should we determine that discrimination is a concern.

Values-Alignment Principles for the CanTrust Community

When new clients request CanTrust services, we run a “values alignment check” to ensure that our new collaborative agreement will be a good fit for both CanTrust and our clients. Further, we believe that transparency is an increasingly important value to embody in a world that is leaning more towards implicit rather than explicit agreements. There is no small text terms of service to quickly skim past and sign off on, we want to be bold and clear about what our expectations are for our clients, and for ourselves. When you request services from CanTrust, you will be required to attest that you share these core values with us.


In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of:

  • Honesty
    • CanTrust’s Responsibility: CanTrust will maintain the value of honesty when engaging and communicating with all of our clients
    • Client Responsibility: To be honest and forthright about your content, intentions, and goals for hosting with CanTrust
  • Openness
    • CanTrust’s Responsibility: CanTrust will work with clients in a collaborative and open way with free sharing of information and knowledge, save for private information as per PIPA/FIPA standards.
    • Client Responsibility: To work with all CanTrust team members in an inclusive and transparent way
  • Social Responsibility
    • CanTrust’s Responsibility: We will not host content from organizations or companies that we deem racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and classist. We will not host content from organizations or companies that we deem to participate in the oppression of other people. We will not host content from organizations or companies that we deem to invade Indigenous lands.
    • Client Responsibility: The client does not have in their content, practices, or values discrimination that is based on age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, national original, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or other status prohibited by applicable law; and that our content, practices, or values do not include allow propaganda, blatant misinformation, or misleading information.
  • Caring for Others
    • CanTrust’s Responsibility: To ensure that all client sites and products are equally given maximum uptime and support as agreed upon on the SLA.
    • Client Responsibility: To participate on our servers with others’ needs in minds. This may include the responsibility of keeping their sites updated, and cleaning up their server space. To follow agreed upon protocols for submitting tickets to report issues to ensure that our staff and team members’ work and time is respected.


All new customers must acknowledge their alignment with the following principles:

  • To not devastate/harm the environment
  • To not spread misinformation or propaganda
  • To not oppress other people through their content, site, or operational choices
  • To not encourage, promote, condone, or support the harm or hatred of other people in their content, practices, or values including discrimination that is based on age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, national original, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or other status prohibited by applicable law
  • To not support or participate in the invasion of Indigenous lands

Co-ops and Open Source

Co-operatives and Open Source

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The year was 1844. The industrial revolution had recently changed everything. New technology redefined how work was done and power structures that had withstood generations were upended and rewritten in a few short years.  Wealth concentrated quickly into the hands of a powerful new class of industrialists thanks to market forces, while working rights and conditions plummeted to unfathomable new lows for even skilled workers.

But there was a better alternative. A CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT IS BORN

Faced otherwise with poverty, the members of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers created the first modern co-operative, founded on the Rochdale Principles that are the basis of all modern co-operatives today. Co-operatives reject discrimination, encourage democratic control and member participation, education and training of their membership, and collaboration with other co-operatives. The idea was hugely successful, with 1,500 co-operatives operating in Britain by the turn of the 20th century. This is not simply wishful thinking, but a viable alternative to capitalism, which relies on flawed oversight of government checks and balances, while allowing the same corporations to lobby the government overseeing them.

The year is 2020.  The Internet has changed everything. New technology redefined how work is done and power structures that withstood generations were upended and rewritten in a few short years.  Global wealth concentrated quickly into the hands of a powerful group of software companies.  This handful of for-profit corporations control the all data which underpins the modern workplace, and hoard this data for their own purposes, despite it being provided by, and rightfully belonging to the end users.   Services are cheap or free but always with a catch, of the user’s privacy coming second, after maximizing any potential profit for the data.  The so called gig economy wields this technology lock-in alongside insatiable customer demand to bypass the hard fought labour protections of the last 150 years.

But there was a better alternative. OPEN SOURCE IS BORN

The modern Open Source Movement was born in the 1990s, when the Internet was new and Netscape Communications released the source code to Netscape Navigator.  For some context, back then Microsoft was in the middle of a campaign to kill Netscape (a competitor to Internet Explorer ) and also to eliminate Linux and the whole open source model (“a cancer” as Steve Balmer described it in 2001).   The Open Source concept is simple: Developers make their software source code available for free to anyone and everyone.  People can use it as they like, including modifying it.  But they must also share their modifications, for others to also use. The power of this open collaboration was hugely successful.  Projects multiplied rapidly, built to run on the open source UNIX operating systems (Linux and the BSD’s).  In 2008, the website GitHub was born, and the complicated source control technology that facilitates group collaboration was suddenly extremely easy to use.   The open source ecosystem exploded in size and popularity.  Today, the collection of open source software available is like the fusion of a massive public library with a huge community mural.  The code is there for all to use and improve upon, and work is done out in the open with everyone able to see what is happening and provide feedback and improvements.  Work is done almost exclusively by volunteers, who come from hugely diverse backgrounds, and is managed democratically by those doing the work on the project.  This situation is a parallel evolution of those same co-operative principles from 1844, and like back then, it’s a powerful idea where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The vast majority of the infrastructure used by the software companies who control all our data is now actually open source software.  It runs the networking infrastructure, the servers, provides the programming languages, etc.  that run most everything our modern world now depends on.   The power and profits remain centralized in those same few companies solely because they retain ownership and control of the user data.

There is a clear synergy between co-operatives and open source, as they both share so many of the same principles and values. CanTrust Hosting Co-op is a technology co-op that provides fairly priced business tools and managed web hosting for value-aligned organizations.  By using open source software to consolidate all the tools together, we are able to provide a complete set of business tools for considerably cheaper than cloud vendors.  There are no per-user fees and no payments to multiple organizations.   As a Co-operative, we believe fair pricing should be based on actual resource usage, not by what generates the most profit.  We are 100% Canadian owned and operated, using only our own computers and Canadian networks.  Your data is protected by Canadian privacy laws, and is beyond the jurisdiction of any foreign legislation including the US Patriot or CLOUD acts.  We believe people must own and control their data.  We never sell, data mine, or otherwise use customer data.

Open Source has already won the technical battle.  Even Microsoft knows this and is now the primary benefactor of the Open Source movement. It did not do this because it had a choice in the matter, but because it can see that there’s been a paradigm shift. The future of software technology is in Open Source, collaboration, and communication.

But there is much to do still in the battle for control over the data that drives everything. A better alternative exists and Technology Co-ops are leading the charge for digital rights.  The Platform Co-operativism movement, borne of the fusion of technology, open source, and co-operative principles, aims to disrupt the disrupters.  A better alternative exists.  We can replace the corporation-owned power structures with co-operatively run equivalents, where cost and wealth distribution are fairer and where power belongs where it should, in the hands of those who own the data in the first place.  As those creating the data, we the people are the ones holding the power, and Open Source technology provides the tools we need to build this future.