The concept that York Region could become a Character Community was born at an international Quest for Character Symposium hosted in April 2001 by the York Region District School Board.

At that symposium, Town of Markham Mayor Don Cousens took on the challenge to host a forum about building cities of character. That same year, York Regional Council approved the establishment of a steering committee to develop a proposal for a Character Community York Region. Enthusiastic support from a wide spectrum of area municipalities, businesses, educators, community organizations, and residents convinced the steering committee that a region-wide Character Community York Region initiative would be welcome.

On January 24, 2002, York Regional Council approved a resolution declaring York Region to be a Character Community – the first regional municipality to do so in Canada. One month later, the official launch of the York Region Character Community initiative took place with the unveiling of a logo, mission statement, vision statement and website. Within a few months, the original 11 attributes were decided upon, and retired NHL hockey player Wendel Clark agreed to be the Character Champion.

In 2007, the Character Community York Region initiative was granted charitable status as the first registered Character Community charity in Canada. In 2011, the Character Community Foundation of York Region received funding from the York Region Community Development Investment Fund for its first character-based hockey/social inclusion program –The Slap Shot Hockey Program for low income/newcomer children. To date, Character Community York Region has delivered their character development programs to over 130,000 children, youth, and seniors across York Region.