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Joint Tables
Joint Coordinating Committee
Joint Accord Table
Awareness Joint Table
Capacity Joint Table
NVI Joint Table
IM/IT Joint Table
Joint Regulatory Table
Aboriginal Reference Group
Visible Minority Reference Group
Advocacy Working Group
Working Group on Financing

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History of the VSI

In 1995 thirteen national, umbrella voluntary sector organizations formed a group called the Voluntary Sector Roundtable (VSR). The VSR was established to bring about collaboration in the voluntary sector on issues of common concern. The sector has a long and effective history of working together in groups and coalitions. Prior to the VSR, groups of sector organizations worked on shared issues or concerns related to the mandate of their organization such as poverty or improved conditions for artists and cultural workers. The VSR was the first cross-sectoral group in Canada to work on the shared issues related to being a voluntary sector organization.

In 1997 the VSR convened the Panel on Accountability and Governance in the Voluntary Sector. The Panel conducted Canada-wide research and consultations and published its recommendations in its final report entitled Building on Strength: Improving Governance and Accountability in Canada's Voluntary Sector. The 1999 report made 41 recommendations for the voluntary sector and for governments with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness and credibility of the sector in its ongoing role of strengthening civil society.

Following on the release of the Panel’s report, the VSR encouraged the creation of a joint Government of Canada - voluntary sector process to explore three areas of common concern: building a new sector/government relationship, strengthening the voluntary sector's capacity, and improving the regulatory environment in which the voluntary sector operates. Over the summer of 1999 three "joint tables", comprised of government and sector leaders, discussed these issues and produced a final report entitled Working Together: A Government of Canada/Voluntary Sector Joint Initiative. The recommendations from this report form the basis for much of the work of the Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI).

In the 1999 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada clearly recognized the need for an active partnership with a strong and vital voluntary sector to meet its goal of improving the quality of life for Canadians. This commitment was given life the following June, when the federal government and the voluntary sector announced a joint initiative entitled “Partnering for the Benefit of Canadians: Government of Canada – Voluntary Sector Initiative”. The announcement provided a five-year funding commitment of $94.6-million dollars for the work of the VSI. Click here to learn how VSI funding was allocated.

The work undertaken during the VSI has been divided into two phases – Phase I from June 2000 to October 2002 and Phase II from November 2002 to March 2005.

VSI: Process and Structure


Throughout the VSI Phase I, the voluntary sector and the federal government worked through seven Joint Tables. Each table was comprised of equal numbers of representatives from the voluntary sector and government. This was the first time a joint approach had been attempted in such a multi-faceted and complex environment. This joint approach, which enabled two essentially different sectors to examine difficult issues with openness and respect, is a unique VSI achievement.


The voluntary sector leadership comprised of:

  • The Voluntary Sector Steering Group (VSSG), composed of 23 individuals, that included:
    • Members of the Voluntary Sector Roundtable;
    • Voluntary sector co-chairs of Joint Tables;
    • Chairs of Sector Working Groups;
    • Voluntary sector members of the Joint Coordinating Committee; and
    • One representative each from the Visible Minority and Aboriginal Reference Groups.
  • Voluntary Sector Initiative Secretariat, reporting to the VSSG, and supporting the involvement of the voluntary sector in the VSI
  • Visible Minority Reference Group
  • Aboriginal Reference Group

The federal government leadership comprised of:

  • A Reference Group of Ministers, chaired by The Honourable Lucienne Robillard, President of the Treasury Board;
  • Voluntary Sector Task Force reporting to the Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office;
  • Government members of the Joint Coordinating Committee;
  • Assistant Deputy Ministers Executive Committee; and
  • Government co-chairs of Joint Tables.

Joint Tables

The Joint Tables worked on policy and program recommendations in seven areas:

At the end of phase I, some of the tables had fully completed their mandates while others had outstanding projects and work. In October 2002, all of the joint tables produced final reports and made recommendations for future action. Three of the tables appointed advisory bodies to oversee continuing VSI work. These bodies are the Awareness Initiative Advisory Committee, the Capacity Joint Table Advisory Committee and the IM/IT Advisory Group.

Working Groups

During Phase I, two issues of great importance to the voluntary sector – advocacy and funding were worked on by sector-only working groups – the Working Group on Financing and the Advocacy Working Group. These were each comprised of 7 voluntary sector leaders and were staffed out of the Voluntary Sector Initiative Secretariat and in the second phase of the VSI these two issues, in addition to others of national concern to the voluntary sector, are being addressed by the Voluntary Sector Forum.


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Last Updated: 2007-01-04