Connection When it Matters Most

As Canada’s primary source of information for government and community-based, non-clinical health and social services, it’s no surprise the 211 helpline saw contact volumes surge as soon as the pandemic struck. People across the country needed help.

Recognizing the value of 211’s referral service, the Government of Canada committed money through its Emergency Community Support Fund to increase capacity of existing 211 service and expand the service nationwide.

United Way Centraide Canada and its 211 service partners worked together with telecommunications providers to enable 211 dialing in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon Territories, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. By the end of 2020, the 211 helpline was available in every corner of Canada, connecting people to a wide-range of support with one phone call.

To boost awareness of the helpline, we launched a campaign to promote 211 across the country. Information was shared in English, French, Inuktitut, Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic, and Spanish.

The free and confidential service can be accessed seven days a week, in more than 150 languages.

Expanding Access Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast

canada map

Before the expansion, only some provinces had access to the 211 helpline. Today, everyone can connect with support and services when they need it most.

Impact: Help Starts Here


total contacts

March 2020-June 2021


increase in 2020/2021 compared with the previous year


languages offered

Answering the Call -
Trends in Service Needs

During the pandemic, 211 Navigators found unique patterns in the calls they answered:

  1. People who have never needed help before are now in vulnerable positions due to the pandemic.
  2. Many callers were anxious, overwhelmed, and desperate.
  3. Most callers were looking for support with basic needs, like food and healthcare.
  4. A large number of callers were looking for clarity on public health guidelines and how to access pandemic assistance programs.
  5. More people were reaching out with unmet needs as many program and service providers lost valuable revenue streams due to the pandemic.

Priority Needs Identified by Callers


and meals






Income support
and financial


Mental health
and addictions


Information services


Addressing Multiple Needs With One Call

Sometimes identifying the problem can be complex. 211 Navigators take the time to walk through all of the issues a caller is facing to help connect them to the right services.

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Reaching out

Reaching out for Help Can Be Hard

Reaching out for help for the first time is a big step, and one that 211 Navigators don't take for granted. 211 Navigators are the first point of contact, but they make sure they are not your last.

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Navigators Look at the Whole Picture to Offer Support

211 Navigators took the time to review every program that this parent was eligible for when they sought help for their children with autism.

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Government of Canada

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund.