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Ontario Should Go Further to Reduce Barriers to Volunteering


July 12, 2022

OTTAWA, ON – Cardus is calling on Ontario’s government to reduce barriers to volunteering in order to help reverse the decline in formal volunteer rates and hours. Canadians’ rate of formal volunteering through an organization dropped from 47 percent in 2010 to 41 percent by 2018, according to Statistics Canada. Over the same period, the average number of formal volunteer hours dropped by 16 percent.

“We need to start rebuilding the civic skill of charitable volunteering,” says Joanna DeJong VanHof a researcher at the non-partisan think tank. “We can start by making it easier and more affordable to be a volunteer.”

VanHof wrote an Ontario-focused report on barriers to volunteering. One of the biggest barriers she identified was checks for prospective volunteers in the vulnerable sector. Usually, the vulnerable sector includes children, youth, senior citizens, and those living with a disability. Police administer vulnerable sector checks, providing critical protection for both vulnerable populations and charitable organizations.

Vulnerable sector checks can be expensive for many individuals and small charities. In Ontario, it can cost an applicant up to $35 to get one these checks before they can volunteer. Sometimes, police may require additional fingerprinting, which is usually an extra cost. That can be a considerable sum for one of the most fruitful sources of volunteers: those who earn less than $20,000 a year.

“Not being able to afford to volunteer should never be a barrier,” says VanHof. “The cost of vulnerable sector checks is low-hanging fruit for a provincial government trying to tackle an affordability crisis.”

The Cardus report calls on Ontario to subsidize the full cost of volunteers’ vulnerable sector checks, and any associated fingerprinting requirement. That would cost an estimated $8 million a year, which is less than half of one percent of the total provincial budget for 2021–2022 program expenses.

A full subsidy for volunteers’ vulnerable sector checks would be a step forward from Ontario’s move in April to eliminate fees for potential volunteers’ criminal records and judicial matters checks. That change didn’t apply to vulnerable sector checks and didn’t include any actual subsidy to police services, which either absorbed the cost or increased fees for criminal record checks for employment purposes.

Access the full report Vulnerable Sector Check Costs Remain a Barrier for Volunteers at


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