(Summarized from Stephen Bindman’s article written for the CIJ’s 1988 National Conference in Toronto.)

In fact the CIJ probably owes its origins to a chance encounter in early 1978 between Henry Aubin and Jock Ferguson, then a reporter with CBC-TV in Toronto. Aubin was on a cross-country tour flogging City For Sale, a hard-hitting exposé on who owns Montreal. Ferguson, an investigative reporter of some note himself, was reviewing the book.

Though newspapers like Le Monde and the Washington Post gave the book high praise, The Gazette disliked it, mainly due to a new management set who refused to review it because of the uproar.

Weeks later, Ferguson and Aubin met to chat about the state on their profession in Canada, and their frustration at the isolation of the one or two reporters in each newsroom performing investigative work. The two agreed to do something to bring these journalists together.

Soon after, Nick Fillmore of CBC Radio and Jean-Claude Leclerc from Le Devoir joined them in the endeavour. A series of meetings took place in the fall of 1978, and by October, 50 people had sent in membership dues, and another 50 had expressed interest. Despite the reluctance of some journalists, Ferguson believes what was eventually to become the CIJ succeeded where others before it had failed because they never had any focus.

The stage was soon set for the founding convention and Montreal was chosen as the site. Hoping for 150 people, the organizers chose the Centre St-Pierre, a 19th century church in downtown Montreal.

Three hundred and fifty people later, the organizers were forced to change locations to a more comfortable hotel downtown. Keynote speaker was Morton Mintz, veteran reporter from the Washington Post, and several panel discussions also ensued.

Ferguson states it was the tone of that first convention that sent everybody away charged up, and which laid the foundation for everything. The Centre for Investigative Journalism was born.

From CIJ to CAJ

In the ensuing years, as projects including the annual Awards for Investigative Journalism began taking shape, many members thought a name change that would better describe the organization as well as make it more inclusive, would be beneficial both to attract greater numbers at conventions, but to attract more members, and therefore, improve services.

The idea for the new name The Canadian Association of Journalists, took shape in the mid 1980’s, culminating in a vote at the CIJ’s 1986 annual general meeting. The final decision was to maintain the present name, mainly because present members feared that the name change would take the edge off the organization, and would steer activities away from investigative journalism issues, the basis for its founding.

Undaunted, the controversy would not die, and members continued to lobby and promote the name change. Finally, at the 1990 National Conference in Winnipeg, members voted to change the Constitution and the Letter Patent of the organization to reflect a new name – The Canadian Association of Journalists.

It was also 1990 that saw the first Women in the Media conference, hosted in Toronto, and which became a major CAJ annual event for most of the ’90s. It was replaced in 1998 by the National Writers’ Symposiums.

A brief history of the CAJ

In 1996, the Board of Directors saw fit to change the official logo of the organization. It was felt that the old logo, a lined arrow (originally designed for the CIJ) pointing to the right with the name of the organization on top and below, did not truly reflect the aims and objectives of the organization. Consequently a new, colorful logo depicting the realms of print, radio, television, and computer journalism, along with the acronym CAJ and the name in both official languages, was created. It has been the only official logo for the organization ever since.

In late 1996, the organization reached a milestone: the highest level of membership in its 18-year history.

In 1998, the CAJ launched the first-ever National Writers’ Symposiums, which took place in Halifax and Calgary that autumn. Writers’ Symposiums have been held every year since.

That year, the CAJ also celebrated its 20th Anniversary at the annual national conference held at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto.

And, in 2003, the CAJ celebrated its 25th Anniversary at the annual national conference at the Toronto Hilton.

In 2007, the CAJ hosted the Global Investigative Journalism Conference at the Toronto Hilton- the first time this conference had been held in North America.

In 2008, the CAJ celebrated its 30th Anniversary at the annual national convention held in Edmonton, Alta.