Volunteering in Canada

Volunteer in Canada

What to Know Before Volunteer in Canada

Volunteer in Canada is an option that millions of people choose every year. Canada has 34,700,000 people scattered amongst 9,980,000 square kilometres. Canada is the second-largest country in the world by land area. Canada borders the United States to the south and stretches from the Atlantic to Pacific and Arctic oceans. Canada is made up of 10 provinces and three territories that cover six time zones. Bilingualism, multiculturalism, and respect for human rights characterize Canada. Canada has a diverse economy. Life expectancy in Canada is. The literacy rate in Canada is approximately . Canada’s capital city is in Ottawa, in the province of Ontario.

What to know before volunteering in Canada

What to know Before Volunteer in Canada

When considering volunteer in Canada, you must keep in mind how diverse a country Canada is. The types of volunteering experiences you will have — and people you will meet — depends greatly on where in Canada you choose to volunteer. Your experiences in small indigenous communities in Canada’s far north (Nunavut, for example) will be very different from experiences in Canada’s largest municipalities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, for example). When researching opportunities in Canada, you should almost think of Canada as several separate countries with different opportunities and characteristics.

Thinking about Canada from that perspective, you should know that Canada is made up of thirteen separate but federated provinces and territories. Volunteer in Canada is easy and rich in chances. Canada’s capital is in Ottawa, Ontario. Here’s some information about those provinces and regions to give a sense of the character of Canada as a whole, one part at a time.

NamePopulationCapitalLargest City/PopulationRegion
British Columbia5,071,000VictoriaVancouver

631,486

West Coast
Alberta4,371,000EdmontonCalgary

1,239,220

West
Saskatchewan1,174,000ReginaSaskatoon

245,181

West/Prairies
Manitoba1,369,000WinnipegWinnipeg

705,244

West
Ontario14,570,000TorontoToronto

5,439,524

Central Canada
Quebec8,485,000Quebec CityMontreal

3,519,595

Central Canada
New Brunswick776,827FrederictonMoncton

108,620

Maritimes/East Coast
Nova Scotia971,395HalifaxHalifax

431,479

Maritimes/East Coast
Newfoundland and Labrador521,542St. John’sSt. John’s

113,948

East Coast
Prince Edward Island156,947CharlottetownCharlottetown

36,094

East Coast
Nunavut38,780IqaluitIqaluit

7,740

North
North West Territories44,826YellowknifeYellowknife

19,569

North
Yukon35,874Whitehorse25,085North

Volunteerism in Canada

Volunteering is a widely respected activity in Canada. Official Canadian statistics indicate that, in 2013, over 44% of Canadians volunteered in some capacity. A total of 1,957,000,000 hours of time were volunteered by Canadians. In Canada, women are slightly more likely to volunteer than men, and the 15-19 age group is most likely to volunteer. Having said that, 27% of Canadians over age 75 are active volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities exist in every province, community, and area. Common areas in which to volunteer are: community meal and emergency shelter programs; literacy, tutoring, and education programs; environment and conservation programs; arts and culture programs; agriculture and food production projects; and camping, recreation, and sports actvities.

Canada has a very organized volunteer community that includes government participation and leadership. For example, visit the Canadian website volunteer.ca. Volunteers in Canada should expect to be asked to provide identification, references, and to undergo a police record check to ensure you can safely participate in the volunteer activity. If your volunteering activity will put you in contact with vulnerable communities (children or disabled individuals, for example), you will be asked to undergo a more thorough record check. Most legitimate volunteer organizations will provide training and mentoring throughout your volunteer experience.

Currency

Canada has its own independent currency, called the Canadian Dollar. In short form, it’s usually referred to as “CAD.” Canada uses a combination of coins (five cent (nickels), ten cent (dimes), twenty-five cent (quarters), one dollar (loonies) and two dollars (toonies)) and bills (denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100). You can exchange foreign currencies for Canadian dollars (or Canadian dollars for foreign currencies) in every Canadian city and bank, and in many private businesses.

Canada also uses all common internationally used credit cards (including prepaid debit cards), debit cards, travelers’ cheques, and money orders through its banks and commercial businesses. It is quite common to use the American dollar (USD) in Canada. Most, but not all, businesses will accept it. You will have to pay the exchange rate. As of May 2020, one CAD is worth approximately 0.71USD.

Accommodation

Canadians live in a wide range of accommodations depending on the province, city or community, and lifestyle (rural or urban). Short-term visitors to Canada for volunteering purposes can expect to rent an apartment or room in a house or apartment, rather than to buy a home. Travelers within or two Canada often rent cottages or homes for short periods (a few nights or weeks) privately or through companies like Airbnb. Travelers moving from city to city can also stay in hostels.

Alternative types of accommodations are available depending on the type of adventure you’re seeking. Examples are cottages (usually on the shore of lakes, rivers, or oceans), tents (in campgrounds or parks), trailers (in parks or towed behind vehicles), or in recreational vehicles (driven on roads or towed behind vehicles).

Transport

Canada has a well-developed system of highways (mostly toll-free but there are some toll-highway options in some provinces and cities), roads, and streets in and connecting every province. Canada has a national passenger train service (VIA Rail) that transports passengers by train to and through every province. Individual provinces have smaller commuter rail companies that service their largest metropolitan areas. The largest of those, called GoTransit, services communities throughout Ontario by a combination of train and bus.

You can also travel to and in Canada by plane. Canada has 17 international airports (in the provinces of Alberta, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Manitoba), as well as smaller regional airports. Canada is serviced by most international airlines, and has a national airline called Air Canada that offers a full range of international flights, For those not interested in traveling by car, train, or plane, Canada has a robust bus industry that takes passengers between cities and provinces, and even across the country.

All of Canada’s large cities have municipal transit systems (some combination of buses, streetcars, and trains) for travel within the city and surrounding area. Montreal (in Quebec) and Toronto (in Ontario) also have subway systems for moving quickly within the city, largely underground. Most cities in Canada have at least one taxi company, and Canada’s largest cities have app-based ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Canada has many bike-friendly cities, although traveling between cities and provinces by bike is not recommended (unless long-distance cycling is the point of your trip). Canada is a much larger country than many realize.

Healthcare

Canada has a universal health care system that is mostly free to citizens and residents. There are exceptions to that, including dentistry and prescription drugs, although many Canadians have insurance policies that provide coverage for medical services and products that are not free.

Travelers to Canada are welcome to use Canada’s health care system, but they do not qualify for free health services. No one will be denied health care in Canada over an inability to pay, but travelers to Canada from other countries are advised to purchase medical insurance for emergency and other medical costs.

 

Also: How to Volunteer in United States?

Safety precautions

Canada has a national police force. Many provinces and larger cities have their own police forces as well. Those police forces are responsible for law enforcement and public safety. Crime-related statistics show that Canada has an overall crime level that is ranked 53rd worldwide. Crime rates vary from province to province and city to city. In 2017, the provinces with the lowest crime rate were Quebec and Ontario, while Nunavut had the highest rate.

Common sense precautions to ensure personal safety are appropriate in Canada, including things like: walking with a companion in unfamiliar areas or after hours; having a means of contacting someone in case of emergency; having a way for others to contact you; and advising others where you are, where you are going, and when you expect to arrive.

Food

Canada does not really have a complete national cuisine separate from the various cultures that make up its population. Having said that, there are a couple of common Canadian foods that you might not find elsewhere. Poutine is a combination of french fries, gravy and cheese curds that arose in Quebec but is popular everywhere. Beavertails are not the tails of beavers, but are a deep fried pastry often dusted with brown sugar, cinnamon, and dripped with lemon juice.

As a multicultural nation, Canada prides itself on the extent to which its provinces and cities offer a wide variety of international cuisines and cultures in even small and medium-sized cities. In almost every community, you will find international foods and flavours in restaurants and markets. The largest cities in each province will offer the largest variety.

Weather

Canada is a massive country with three oceans (Atlantic to the East, Pacific to the West, Arctic to the North), massive freshwater lake and river systems, and mountain ranges that cross entire provinces. As a result, Canada offers a very diverse weather experience. Canada has four seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall) with distinct climate conditions in each, though the extremes vary from province to province and region to region.

The most southerly portions of Canada are as far south as northern California, and the most northerly portions of Canada lay well above the Arctic circle. The weather that you’ll experience will vary greatly depending on where you travel. Having said that, Canada’s largest and most popularly visited cities are generally near the border with the United States. Here’s some details about Canada’s weather in some of her largest cities:

Vancouver, British ColumbiaMontreal, QuebecToronto, OntarioCalgary, AlbertaHalifax, Nova Scotia
Hottest MonthsJuly and AugustJuly and AugustJulyJune to SeptemberAugust
Average High Temperature72F or 22C79F or 26C81F or 27C66F or 19C66F or 19C
Coolest MonthsJanuaryJanuary and FebruaryJanuary and February January and February January and February
Average Low Temperature32F or 0C24F or -4C20F or -6C12F or -11C18F or -8C
NotesGenerally cool and rainy. Snow doesn’t usually last.There will be snow in the winter, from roughly December to MarchThere will be snow in winter, from roughly December to MarchIt has a rainy season from May to SeptemberProximity to the ocean means damp air, fog, and rain

Clothing

Canada is a very active country with distinct regions and seasons. You need to dress keeping all of those things in mind. Dress for the activity you plan to participate in (proper shoes for hiking, for example), the region you plan to be in (trails in Ontario versus mountains in Alberta for example), and the time of year (hiking in winter is a very different scenario than in summer). In spring and early summer (as well as late summer and early fall), come prepared for both cool days and nights, and warm and hot days.

In summer, dress in anticipation of high temperatures and high humidity. In late fall, winter, and early spring, be prepared for cold temperatures and high winds. In those seasons, dressing in multiple layers is a must, and protection for your hands (mittens or gloves), head (a toque), neck (scarf), and feet (insulated boots) is a must. Every season can feature rain, in some regions more than others, so you should always have a waterproof or water-resistant option available. In every season, have sunscreen on hand to protect yourself from prolonged exposure to the sun while outside. Whatever you don’t take with you, you’ll be able to buy from retailers or online in any community in Canada.

Timings and weekends

Business hours” in Canada are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday are the weekends. Most professional services are open during those regular business hours, and closed on the weekends. Banks mostly follow those hours, but there are branches open on Saturdays in larger cities, and ATMs and online banking are available 24/7. Retail stores, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, etc. are open every day of the week. Canada is no longer “closed” on Sundays as it once was. Some businesses (especially smaller or family-run businesses in smaller communities will close on Mondays).

Religious diversity

Canada prides itself on its multicultural personality, including as that relates to religious diversity. Certainly Christianity is the most commonly practiced religion in Canada (67.3% of the population in 2011 according to one report). Within Christianity, the most common denomination is Roman Catholic. Having said that, some 24% of Canadians practice no religion at all. Other prominent faiths practiced in Canada include Muslims (3.2%), Hindus (1.5%), Sikhs (1.4%), Buddhists (1.1%), and Jews (1%). As a general rule, religious observance is shrinking in Canada. Canada is increasingly a secular country. In Canada, it is prohibited by law to discriminate against anyone on a wide variety of grounds (that vary from province to province), including their religion. Canada’s largest cities will contain welcoming faith communities of almost every significant religion practiced worldwide.

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