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Taking the Accord Forward: The First Report to Canadians on Implementing An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector

A. The Context for Change

A vital pillar of Canadian society, the voluntary sector is a major social and economic force in this country – for example, consider that the sector

  • employs approximately 1 million people
  • is supported by 6.5 million volunteers
  • includes 180,000 incorporated organizations
  • has annual revenues of $90 billion and assets of $109 billion

In June 2000, the federal government announced the Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI), a joint endeavour designed to better serve the needs of Canadians by strengthening the capacity of the voluntary sector and enhancing its relationship with the Government of Canada.

Unique in its “jointness,” the VSI invited more than 125 representatives of both sectors to sit at joint tables that focussed on key areas, such as strengthening the relationship between the two sectors, enhancing the capacity of the voluntary sector and improving the regulatory environment in which the sector operates.

About the Accord

From the outset, a major focus of the VSI was the development of a joint accord, or framework agreement, that would provide visible and concrete recognition of the importance of the relationship between the two sectors. Over its almost two-year lifespan (September 2000 to July 2002), the Accord project was guided by the Joint Accord Table, a collaborative working group composed of an equal number of senior executives from the federal government and the voluntary sector. The Table was assigned responsibility for two tasks: developing an accord between the two sectors and creating implementation tools and mechanisms to give it life.


As it moves towards the end of its five-year mandate, the VSI continues to make progress on its commitments. Following is a sampling of recent initiatives: 

  • In today’s information-driven age, voluntary sector organizations need to be able to collect and manage data effectively. Information management/information technology (IM/IT) projects are under way to deliver technology training and support, change funding practices, facilitate access to funding, build a portal and raise IM/IT awareness.
  • Recommendations on streamlining the regulatory framework for charitable organizations were developed by federal government and voluntary sector representatives in a joint process. Of note as well is a simplified tax reporting form for charities and new policy guidelines on political activities.
  • The first program to be developed as a follow-up to the work of the VSI’s joint tables, the Canada Volunteerism Initiative, showcases the potential of a joint relationship between the two sectors. Designed jointly, it will improve the capacity of organizations to benefit from the contribution of volunteers; encourage Canadians to participate in voluntary organizations; and enhance the experience of volunteering.
  • A number of initiatives are under way to build capacity within the voluntary sector. For example: a Web site ( provides valuable human resource information; voluntary sector organizations can now access information on the skills and competencies that sector leaders require; an exchange program between the federal government and the voluntary sector offers both sectors a unique on-the-job learning opportunity; and best practice case studies provide a wealth of information on financing/resourcing issues for voluntary sector organizations.
  • More information is needed on the people, organizations and processes that power the voluntary sector. Two major national surveys are helping to build an inventory of facts and figures on the sector.

Signed on December 5, 2001, An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector is a landmark agreement signaling the beginning of an enhanced relationship between the two sectors. For the first time ever, the Accord identifies common values and principles to guide the working relationship between the sectors and commits each sector to building that relationship. The product of extensive research and consultation, as well as spirited, informed debate and discussion, the Accord strengthens the ability of both sectors to enhance quality of life in Canada and provides a legacy that will last well into the future.


It [the Government of Canada] will put into action the accord it signed with the voluntary sector last December, to enable the sector to contribute to national priorities and represent the views of those too often excluded.

(September 30, 2002)


The Accord sets out common values and principles to shape future practices:


  • democracy
  • active citizenship
  • equality
  • diversity
  • inclusion
  • social justice


  • independence
  • interdependence
  • dialogue
  • co-operation and collaboration
  • accountability to Canadians

Making it work

Part of the Accord’s strength is its recognition of the need for practical measures to move its provisions forward. With this in mind, it calls for organizational structures, processes and tools for implementing the Accord, and monitoring and reporting on progress in specific areas. In particular, section V, “Taking the Accord Forward,” commits the voluntary sector and the federal government to achieving results in five essential areas. These activity areas form the basis of the reporting framework for this report:

  • A solid foundation: setting up organizational structures in the federal government and the voluntary sector to put the Accord into action;
  • Awareness is key: raising awareness of the Accord within the voluntary sector and the federal government, as well as among Canadians;
  • Putting the Codes to work: developing codes of good practice to help guide interactions between the two sectors;
  • Tracking our progress: establishing processes for monitoring the Accord, reporting to Canadians about progress and moving forward on priorities; and
  • A shared journey: holding regular meetings between ministers and sector representatives to discuss progress and plans.

The following section provides an overview of the two sectors’ progress in each of these five areas.

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Last Updated: 2019-11-18