Catalyst for Change: In Support of the Charitable Sector

Ottawa – The federal government needs to renew its relationship with charities, non-profits and volunteers if it is to sustain good work in the future. In a report released last Thursday, the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector details the strategies and regulatory reforms needed to maximize the impact of this sector in communities both here in Canada and around the world.

Established in January 2018 to examine the impact of laws and policies governing the sector in Canada, the committee held extensive consultations with charities, non-profit, and volunteer groups to learn how Canada could better support their important work.

Themes quickly emerged. While people are at the heart of the sector’s success, organizations expressed concern about recruiting the next generation of volunteers to meet the growing demands and retaining paid staff as other sectors compete for the same talent pool. Canadians’ giving patterns have shifted, and the federal funding for programs and services delivered by charities, non-profits and volunteer organizations continue to be short-term and precarious. The legal framework governing the sector is out of date and can sometimes impede organizations’ work. And the relationship between the sector and the federal government should be strengthened by identifying a home for the sector within a specific department or agency.

The committee makes a number of practical recommendations to address those issues and more.  Members of the committee recognize that there are ways to improve how the federal government can better support the charitable and non-profit sector and the valuable work that it performs.

The committee hopes its recommendations will provide useful guidance to the government as to how it can help the sector achieve new levels of excellence.

Quick Facts

  • An estimated 86,000 registered charities and 85,000 non-profit organizations engage in public benefit activities that touch almost every aspect of Canadian life.
  • The sector employs more than 2 million people and generates more than 7% of Canada’s gross domestic product.
  • During its study, the committee held 24 public hearings and heard from 160 witnesses. It also held an e-consultation that provided insight into the charitable and non-profit sector’s makeup, work and conditions.


“The charitable, non-profit and voluntary sector is full of people who have dedicated themselves to the highest ideals of public service. They told us they can do still more — if we can give them the proper tools. It is time for the government to work with them to succeed so they can continue their crucial work.”

– Senator Terry Mercer, Chair of the committee

“Charities and non-profits have the potential to create catalytic and transformative changes in our communities. However, the rules regulating charities and non-profits in this country have not been reviewed in over 50 years. There is a clear need for federal leadership to remove these barriers experienced by volunteers, staff and board members.”

– Senator Ratna Omidvar, Deputy Chair of the committee


Read the report here: Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector.