The first Canadian Congress on Leisure Research was convened in Quebec City in 1975, under the auspices of Laval University. It was conceived as a one-time event, with no conscious idea that it would become the first in a series of such congresses — although there was discussion among some delegates about the need for a second congress perhaps five years down the road!
The success of the first Congress encouraged a group in Ontario to organize another, titled the Second Canadian Congress on Leisure Research, which was held in Toronto in 1978. It was at this Second Congress that a continuing series of conferences was first envisaged, together with the idea of a permanent organization to promote leisure research generally in Canada and, specifically, to take responsibility for the convening of the Congress. A group of delegates met and charged a small committee, headed by Jack Ellis from York University and Bill Knott from the Ontario Government, to prepare a proposal and constitution for a formal organization, which would be presented to delegates at a Third Congress tentatively scheduled to be held a year later in Edmonton.
It soon became apparent that organizing a national conference in the absence of a formal organization with permanent resources could not be done in a few months. And so, it was not until 1981 that the Third Canadian Congress on Leisure Research convened in Edmonton. The proposal and constitution for a Canadian Association for Leisure Studies (CALS) was unanimously endorsed by delegates. The Association also settled on the triennial pattern for the convening of the Congress which had emerged for the first three congresses, since this appeared to be reasonable from a logistical standpoint. Two years later, in 1983, the Association received its Federal Charter.