A storied fraternal group based in Winnipeg’s North End has merged its business dealings with another organization, but little else is expected to change for its clients.
The Ukrainian Mutual Benefit Association of Saint Nicholas of Canada, a fraternal benefit society started in 1905 for Ukrainian immigrants living in Canada, recently merged with another fraternal group, the not-for-profit Ukrainian Fraternal Society of Canada Life Insurance, founded in 1921. Ruslan Zeleiuk, a member of the UMBA’s audit committee, said that changing times resulted in the benefit association’s services being used less and less.
The UMBA was formed as a sort of financial co-op and fraternal group to help immigrants arriving in Canada from Ukraine. But as the descendants of those original clients grew up, there was less of a demand for the organization’s services.
"Most of the people who are the sons and daughters of the Ukrainian pioneers, they’ve become full members of Canadian society. They support, but not that much, the organization, along with different ones as well," Zeleiuk said.
"The older generation is passing away. The organization is in a very good financial state and everything, but this was a shrinking, a shrinkage of the membership, because it was a small organization."
According to a statement issued by the UFSC, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signed an authorization last December which allowed the UMBA to cease its day-to-day operations so long as its holdings were reinsured by the UFSC.
As a result, the UFSC acquired all of the UMBA’s relevant records and has put a system into place to administer its policies for policyholders.
"Fraternal benefit societies have a vital role in their communities. Fraternals provide security to their members with insurance programs, provide member benefits such as scholarships, and help support a diverse array of charitable activities," the UFSC’s statement said.
Zeleiuk called the merger a friendly one. While the insurance businesses of the two entities have now been merged, he said the fraternal order of Saint Nicholas is also still in existence by itself. The UMBA has now moved out of their old offices at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Arlington Street, which has since gone up for sale. The UFSC’s offices are located at 235 McGregor Street.
"It’s a similar organization, formed (after) ours. It’s a bit different people, because they’re from a different congregation," Zeleiuk said.
"But this was a nice gesture, to unite all Ukrainians… We are so proud we’ve united these two organizations."