Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that assures you and your parents that a school or program adheres to high quality standards. Which 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.
Canada does not have a national system of university accreditation; rather, education falls within the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. However, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) is a national organization representing public and private not-for-profit universities and degree-level colleges that develops quality assurance policies and processes which its members agree to adhere to. Therefore, membership in the AUCC and compliance with the appropriate provincial legislation (for example Ontario's Post-secondary Education Choice & Excellence Act) is generally accepted in lieu of institutional accreditation. This holds true for religious universities as well.
Eight Canadian provinces have gone on to establish a second level of quality assurance which can be either provincial or regional (i.e. covering two or more provinces). This provincial or regional process may be provided by an organization representing the universities, may be provided by an agency of the provincial government, or may be a joint activity of government and institutions. These provincial/regional initiatives include the Degree Quality Assessment Board of British Columbia, Campus Alberta Quality Council, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council, and the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
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 universities or specific departments or programs are accredited by national or international accrediting bodies. Some examples are the Canadian Forestry Accreditation Board (CFAB), Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN), Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA, formerly FIDER), Computer Science Accreditation Council (CSAC), and Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Christian universities 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).
At the field of study or program level, a university -- or department within a university -- may also choose to become a member of a professional association, for example the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA) or the Canadian Art Association. While associations are not the same as accreditation, a university'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.