“Protecting and promoting the rights, needs, and concerns of Deaf Canadians.”
The Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) is one of Canada’s first true self-help groups. It was founded in 1940 as the Inter-Provincial Association of the Deaf by three major regional associations of the Deaf — the Western Canada, the Ontario and the Eastern Canada Associations — with the support of the Montreal Association of the Deaf.

In 1948, the Association became federally incorporated, and became officially known as the Canadian Association of the Deaf. While the Association has since called upon the assistance of a number of hearing persons to serve on committees and in advisory and staff capacities, the entire board of the CAD is composed of Deaf persons, and the affairs of the Association have always been under the control and administration of Deaf persons.


Before the Canadian Association of the Deaf was founded in 1940, there were already dozens and maybe even hundreds of Deaf clubs in Canada’s towns, provinces, and regions.

Probably the oldest continuing Deaf consumer group in the country is the Ontario Association of the Deaf, founded in 1886. The Eastern Canada Association of the Deaf traces its origins back to 1904, and the Western Canada Association of the Deaf was founded in 1923. The fourth founding affiliate of the CAD, the Montreal Association of the Deaf, was the youngest of these groups, having been established in 1929.

The OAD and the WCAD each managed their own Deaf education scholarship funds, but only Deaf residents of these regions were eligible to apply for it. This meant that many thousands of Deaf people in other areas had no access to scholarships to help them further their education.

A national organization was needed that could administer a fund to provide scholarships for any Deaf person in Canada. This was the goal that led to the creation of the Canadian Association of the Deaf in 1940.

The Early Years

Did you know that the Canadian Association of the Deaf is the first and oldest national-level disabled persons organization in Canada!

Originally called the Inter-Provincial Association of the Deaf, the name was changed in 1946 and the association was federally incorporated in 1948. The Deaf charter members were David Peikoff, Robert McBrien, Howard Lloyd, Joe Rosnick, and Donald Kidd.

The CAD established the Canadian Deaf Scholarship (later Education) Fund to provide small grants to help send Deaf students to Gallaudet College (later University). At that time, Gallaudet was the only accessible university in the world.

By the time the CDEF changed its mandate in the early 1970s, it had helped more than 100 Deaf Canadians obtain post-secondary education.

The CAD also fought strongly against the banning of Deaf teachers and ASL in several provinces throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Some of the Deaf schools had been taken over by the Armed Forces as training sites during World War Two. When it became apparent the governments were not going to restore the schools after the War, the CAD successfully protested and got the schools back for the Deaf community.

In the 1950s, the CAD also carried out studies on the feasibility of a Deaf high school and college in Canada, and won the right to extend Deaf education past Grade 10.

The Middle Years

David Peikoff stepped down in 1960 after 20 years as Secretary, and Robert McBrien stepped down in 1967 after an astounding 27 years as President.

Marshall Wick became President, and seven years later moved to the position of unpaid Executive Director.

Wick expanded the CAD’s influence and importance. The Board and Executive members had been mostly from Ontario and Quebec because of lack of funding, but Wick made it possible for all provinces to be represented.

Wick brought captioning to Canada by establishing the CAD’s famous “Captioned Films for the Deaf” program. Throughout the 1970s, the CAD screened captioned movies across the country to prove to the federal government that there was a market for captioning. This success led directly to the introduction of captioned TV programming in Canada in 1981.

It was also Wick who first introduced the CAD to the international Deaf community. In 1983, Wick and then-President Eleanor McPeake became the first CAD delegates to attend a World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf.

Wick’s last and probably most important contributions to the CAD were to secure an annual operating grant from the federal government starting in 1985, which he used to open the first CAD head office and to hire the first paid staffers.

The Recent Years

In 1986, the CAD hired Jim Roots as its first paid Executive Director and it elected Henry Vlug as its first President from a Western province. The next year, it held its AGM outside of Ontario-Quebec for the first time, with Edmonton being the location.

Never forgetting that its roots lay in Deaf education, the CAD organized the huge National Deaf Education Day rally across the county in 1989. It was the top news story in all media across the country, and led to the acceptance of Deaf educators and ASL/LSQ instruction in Deaf schools.

The CAD also did research into the 65% rate of functional illiteracy in the Deaf community, and developed a model literacy training program to address this serious concern.

Focussing on employment issues, the CAD conducted research that found an appalling rate of under- and un-employment among Deaf Canadians. When the federal government showed no interest in addressing this concern, the CAD obtained funding to create new jobs and training opportunities for over 100 Deaf Canadians per year for a period of five years.

Always battling for more captioning, the CAD achieved world-wide admiration as the leading country for captioned TV programming when former CAD President Henry Vlug won a 2002 human rights tribunal decision requiring 100% captioning.

CAD also used the courts to support the successful legal decision in the 1997 Eldridge case that all government services and programs must be accessible for the Deaf.

CAD won legal battles for TTY access, public pay-TTYs, and accessible hotels. It fought for changes to tax credits for Deaf and disabled Canadians, and for changes to immigration policies that discriminated against Deaf immigrants.

While training Deaf youth for careers as professional fundraising consultants, community resource development workers, and TV/video producers, the CAD also established a national network of “marshals” to protect and advocate on behalf of Deaf senior citizens, and developed a model “Deaf-friendly” child care program.

The Future!

In 2003, the CAD was the proud host of the XIVth World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf, attended by more than 2,700 people from 101 countries.

Building on the excitement created by this wonderful event, the CAD is planning many innovative and proactive strategies for the future. Come on and join us in the fulfillment of the dreams of 310,000 Deaf Canadians!