Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that assures you and your parents that a school or program adheres to high quality standards. This means the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the relevant industry or working world. Attending an accredited school or program is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market.
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) is the national organization of both universities and degree-level colleges. Canada does not have a national system of institutional accreditation; rather, education falls within the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. For instance, in order to offer 4-year degrees, a community college needs to have been granted degree accreditation from its provincial ministry of education. Therefore, membership in the AUCC coupled with the appropriate provincial legislation is generally accepted in lieu of institutional accreditation.
When you get down to the specific field of study or program you're interested in, you can also check to see if discipline-specific community colleges or specific programs are accredited by national accrediting bodies. Some examples are the Canadian Forestry Accreditation Board (CFAB), Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP), or Canadian Technology Accreditation Board (CTAB). Christian community colleges can have separate accreditation from bodies such as The Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) or The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS).
A community college may also choose to become a member of a professional association; for community colleges, the primary association is the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). With a membership of 135 colleges and institutes across Canada, the ACCC is a voluntary association, so its membership doesn't necessarily represent the total number of Canada's community colleges. There are also provincial associations committed to ensuring program quality that schools can choose to join or not, such as the Alberta Association of Colleges and Technical Institutes or Colleges Ontario. And at the field of study or program level you can also check to see if there are any professional associations the school belongs to, for example the Association of Canadian Institutes of Art and Design or the Canadian Art Association. While associations are not the same as accreditation, a community college's memberships can be an important indicator of its commitment to particular fields, to education in general and to maintaining quality standards.
Why Accreditation? The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies, which are educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency.