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An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector

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Every day in Canada, volunteers and staff working in thousands of voluntary sector organizations are actively involved in making a difference in improving their communities. This is the Canadian way. The voluntary sector3 is one of three pillars that constitute Canadian society, together with the public4 and private sectors. Our quality of life, our economic strength and the vitality of our democratic institutions depend on the vibrancy of these interdependent sectors and the support they provide to one another.

Voluntary sector groups touch virtually all aspects of our society from social justice, human rights, environment, health and faith to arts and culture, sports and recreation. They deliver services critical to Canadians, advocate for common causes, support economic and community development in Canada and worldwide, and raise funds.

The voluntary sector has also been instrumental in the development of most of the public services we rely on today as essential aspects of a caring society - schools, hospitals, assistance to the disadvantaged, and care for children in need. All of these began as voluntary initiatives. Today, both the public and voluntary sectors are involved in the delivery of these services.

Voluntary sector organizations bring their knowledge, expertise and compassion in working with communities and individuals to public policy debates and identify priorities to governments. By encouraging people to participate and work together for common causes, the sector strengthens citizen engagement, gives voice to the voiceless, allows for multiple perspectives to be heard on a variety of issues, and provides opportunities for people to practice the skills of democratic life.

The voluntary sector provides opportunities for millions of volunteers to contribute to the life of their communities. The term "volunteer" refers to all who work by choice, without remuneration, on causes or for people outside their personal sphere. People volunteer formally, through organizations, or informally by participating and helping others. Volunteering takes different forms in different cultures and different regions of the country. People work and volunteer in the voluntary sector because they are committed to making a difference and believe deeply in the work they are doing.

Aboriginal people have a special place in Canadian society, and the content of this framework agreement needs to be interpreted or applied differently to reflect their point of view.

Volunteers are involved in all three sectors5 but it is the voluntary sector that has been built by volunteers and continues to do the most to mobilize their efforts. The rich network of organizations, called the voluntary sector, helps make Canada the humane, caring and prosperous nation it is and is one of the strengths for which Canada is known around the world.

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Last Updated: 2019-08-19