The focus and aim of social policy in Canada have in part been determined by the unique sociohistorical and cultural context of the country. This entry provides a brief overview of the leading factors that have contributed to the development of social policy in Canada. Emphasis is placed on the economic, social, and cultural context of the development of the country, along with the system of governance and the ideological framework among the general populace. Following this contextualization, four dominant periods of social policy are described. These include the residual period, the emerging institutional period, the institutional period, and the postinstitutional period. In each era the forces leading to specific social policy outcomes are described. These include aspects of the changing economic system and emerging cultural and social needs among the population. Key social policies in each era are introduced and described. Fundamental to each period of social policy development are the efforts of the voluntary sector. In conclusion, future trends in social policy and social welfare in Canada are discussed.