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Founded in 1958, CACL is a national federation of over 40,000 individual members, 400 local associations, and 13 Provincial/Territorial Associations for Community Living. CACL is a national member of Inclusion International, the international federation of associations working to advance the inclusion and human rights of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.


Highlights from CACL's History

CACL has its roots in parents coming together to seek better lives for their sons and daughters with intellectual disabilities.  The grassroots networks of family organizations began in the 1930s in Montreal, and later in Saskatchewan and Ontario. 

One example of local organizing was a grandmother, Victoria Glover, who wrote an editorial to the The Toronto Star in 1948, that galvanized parents who soon began to meet together. She wrote: 

... I think it is time something was done for parents, who, from a sense of faith and hope… want to keep [their children] at home, living a normal life.  These are real parents, only asking a little aid and encouragement… may the Ontario government help them and their children…

Access to education and services were the mobilizing issues of the day.  Gradually, parents formed local associations and then provincial associations to advocate with governments and coordinate efforts across communities.  In 1958, provincial associations formed the Canadian Association for Retarded Children to bring a national voice to their concerns. 

In 1969, the Association changed its name to the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded to reflect the fact that children grow up, and continue to face exclusion in their communities.

Over the years, the Association shifted its thinking about intellectual disability – and began to see the core issues affecting people with intellectual disabilities as basic equality, respect, dignity and human rights.

When the Association changed its name to the Canadian Association for Community Living in 1985, the change reflected this shift in thinking and values that had taken during the course of its history to that point.  The issue was not to ‘fix’ people with intellectual disabilities, but to create communities of equality and diversity where all people are welcomed and belong.


CACL has been a leader in advancing inclusion and human rights for people with intellectual disabilities and their families – through deinstitutionalisation, inclusive education, building inclusive communities, family support initiatives, access to employment, many legal cases to advance our cause, and leadership development.

A 2020 Vision and Agenda for Change chart our future path – so that we can continue to lead the way in helping Canadians, their communities and governments build an inclusive and accessible Canada where diversity includes!  You can view our National Report Card, published annually, which tracks progress on this Agenda.