The sport governing body for track and field in Canada, which is now called Athletics Canada, was established in 1884. It is one of the oldest affiliated bodies with the International Association of Athletics Federations (I.A.A.F.). Only the association of Great Britain (1880) has been in existence for a longer period of time. New Zealand followed in 1887 and the U.S.A. in 1888.
Following preliminary meetings on April 11, 1884, where the athletics associations of Quebec and Ontario sent some 50 representatives to meet at the Toronto Fencing Club, the principal business was to ratify a constitution for the newly formed Canadian Amateur Athletics Association, the forerunner of Athletics Canada.
A mere seventeen years had passed since Sir John A. MacDonald and the Fathers of Confederation had established the political entity of the Dominion of Canada, but these athletics planners already had a considerable tradition upon which to draw.
The first championships were held in Montreal on September 27 of that year, and 20 years later, Etienne Desmarteau would win the first Olympic gold medal for Canada. George Orton, a Canadian, had won an Olympic gold in 1900, but he was competing at these second Games in Paris on an invitation from the United States.
From 1909 until the fall of 1967, the organization was known as the Canadian Track and Field Association (C.T.F.A.). However, it operated under the umbrella of the A.A.U. of C. (Amateur Athletic Union of Canada). In 1968, the IAAF officially recognized the C.T.F.A as an autonomous group and not part of the A.A.U. of C. The A.A.U. of C subsequently dissolved itself in the early 1970`s as all national federations in the different sports went their own ways.
On June 17, 1990, at the annual general meeting of the C.T.F.A., a motion was adopted to change the name to Athletics Canada. The Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs of the Government of Canada accepted this name change officially on April 12, 1991.
Over the past decade Athletics Canada has welcomed under its umbrella the high performance athletes for four disability groups: wheelchair athletes joined the association in 1997 with blind, cerebral palsy, amputee athletes following in 2002.
Inclusion of these disability groups was a natural step given that the focus of the association broadened to include the delivery of similar services to all track and field high performance athletes. In the current structure, provincial disability organizations report to their respective national associations - the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, the Canadian Blind Sports Association, and the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association - while Athletics Canada works directly with the national offices of each disability group.