Every year, community foundations from coast to coast to coast release Vital Signs reports, through the largest community data program in the country. These reports track local knowledge, measure change, and encourage collective action towards improving quality of life. Local data gathered through the program supports evidence-based, locally-relevant solutions to improve wellbeing at the community level. Vital Signs inspires civic engagement, provides focus for public conversation, and helps a range of actors mobilize resources where they will have the greatest impact.

In 2021, community foundations knew that tracking the impacts of the pandemic, intensifying existing inequities, from health to housing, was essential. Both in tracking and understanding what was happening during the pandemic in their unique communities, and in identifying the most strategic opportunities for granting and investment.

Highlights from the network


Focus on housing

The Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation launched their 2021 report with a focus on housing, looking across demographics and including a look at our relationship to land and ownership. The report spotlights local solutions, and suggestions for how readers can take action. 

“We shouldn’t be answering the question of why this report focuses on affordable housing; we should be more gravely concerned about the regenerative nature of the housing crisis. Why are we here? Again?”

Elizabeth Heald, KWCF

Key Finding

Incomes are declining for young people, however they remained the same for most in the Region. From the 2005 to 2015 Census, median total house income in Waterloo Region increased 1.6% in real terms (inflation-adjusted). From 2005 to 2019, the real income (inflation-adjusted) of individuals aged 25 to 34 declined between 5 and 14% for couples and singles.

Housing and Reconciliation on the Land – Take Action

More housing means more land development. To take action, you can learn about the Haldimand Tract Treaty 1784. You can advocate for the Treaty to be honoured, land ethics and principles in any development agreement to be upheld, that Indigenous rights be centered in all future developments, and the Council of the Chiefs of the Grand River Territory be consulted. This is essential to the implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, which became law in Canada in June 2021, and tangible steps towards reconciliation.


Focus on mental health

“In a perfect world, people would have the general understanding that we all have mental health, the same way we all have physical health.”

Patti Wagman, Program Coordinator, Community Coming Together

Key Findings

Albertans have reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction in 17 years.

2018 – 72%

2020 – 40%*

Albertans had the lowest mental health scores out of all provinces in January, February, and March 2021.

During the first six months of 2020, on average 2.5 people died every day in Alberta due to opioids.  As we look towards pandemic recovery, a holistic approach to public health, including mental health, will be essential. This data highlights the need for inclusive planning towards a just recovery.


Focus on making ends meet

This year, the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) partnered with the Edmonton Social Planning Council to research and release shorter, focused Vital Signs reports called Vital Topics. This year they will also be focussed on specific issues that are timely and important to Edmonton – specifically related to the overall theme of Making Ends Meet. These Topics included income and cost of living, gaps in the social safety net, small businesses and employment, and more.

“Poverty is not just about money…poverty is time consuming. For individuals to obtain assistance they constantly need to prove they are poor. Balancing that with having to seek out food, shelter, or other necessities can be overwhelming.”


Key Findings

Unemployment rate in 2020 in Edmonton was 12% – the highest rate since 1993.

In Edmonton (2019), female tax-filers earned about $0.71 for every dollar men made.

Why the Pay Gap Persists

  • Higher-paying industries are still largely ‘male-dominated’ occupations.
  • Women spend more time than men do on unpaid domestic labour, and often reduce their labour force participation, putting them at a disadvantage in the labour market.
  • 25.1% of working women work part-time in Edmonton (10.8% men).
  • Woman-dominated jobs tend to be underpaid, even when they involve the same level of skill as man-dominated jobs.
  • However, according to the 2016 census, more women hold college diplomas or higher than men do in Edmonton, at 61.9% vs 47.4% for men.

Building back better, and strengthening the economy will require an equitable approach to jobs, re-skilling and training to make sure everyone belongs.


New Vital Signs Portal

In 2021, through a partnership between the International Institute for Sustainable Development and Community Foundations of Canada, community foundations launched online local data platforms to host Vital Signs data. These platforms are an engaging option to help communities track and compare important trends, over time. Every year, these platforms will have new data sets uploaded. 

The data platforms organize new and historical data around the Vital Signs issue areas and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“By using the SDGs, we can make direct links to the issues we are facing locally and how we can start to address them together globally, especially through the Foundation’s work in granting.

Sarah Trudeau, Manager of Grants and Community Initiatives

Key Findings

Mental health, job loss, and housing are the top issues in the South Okanagan.

44.7% of national survey respondents in Penticton said their mental health is worse, or much worse than before the pandemic lockdowns began.

Nearly 70% of respondents thought they may lose their main source of income (job or self-employment) within the four weeks following the national survey.

The average cost of a one bedroom apartment has increased 24.3% over the past five years, well above inflation.