The evolution of the Canadian Student Leadership Association


1985 – Canadian Association of Student Government Advisors

In 1983, the students and staff of the Yorkton Regional High School were invited to host the annual provincial leadership conference of 1985. A year later the Premier of Saskatchewan, the Hon. Grant Devine, challenged the Yorkton students to turn the 1985 provincial conference into a national conference. This would be one of Saskatchewan’s contributions to the 1985 International Year of the Youth project.

The challenge was accepted by the students and staff of Yorkton Regional High School and the 1985 conference was held on September 18, 19, and 20 in Yorkton. Over eight hundred students and student advisors attended this conference which had for its theme Youth of Today—Leaders of Tomorrow. Not only did the people come from all across Canada, but there were strong delegations from five states south of the boarder and one delegate from Mexico City. Among the keynote speakers were Mark Scharenbroich, Pamela Wallin, Laurie Skreslet, Jack Donahue and a host of others from within and outside Canada.

The advisors at the first Yorkton conference voted unanimously to support the idea of an annual leadership conference across the nation. Provinces and Northwest Territory/Yukon would be invited to host these conferences. Through the interest, effort, and commitment of these advisors, the Canadian Association of Student Government Advisors was born.


1986 – First Executive Committee formed of CASGA

The second annual conference was hosted by Salisbury Composite High School, Sherwood Park, Alberta in August 1986. The theme of the conference was Leadership ’86: Success Through Involvement. It was well-attended by delegates from coast to coast and the then Territories. The advisors worked on developing a constitution and they elected the first executive of the Association.


1990 – Canadian Association of Student Activity Advisors

In 1990, at the Burnaby Conference, the name of the organization was changed to the Canadian Association of Student Activity Advisors to reflect most accurately the membership of the organization. Not all members are student council advisors; on the contrary, many are responsible for overseeing other student activities in their schools.

In the first decade, the Association saw the creation of provincial student leadership organizations with similar goals and objectives as that of the national organization. In most of our provinces and in The Yukon and The Northwest Territories, annual student leadership conferences are being held.

The national conference, the Canadian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC or C-slick as experienced advisors call it), has now been held in every province and continues to motivate and inspire students and advisors alike. Whether it is in small town PEI or large city Ontario, the message of student leaders and advisors learning skills and working together to make a positive difference in their communities remains strong.

In recent years, we have also witnessed the number of schools developing and offering leadership courses (credit and non-credit) to high school students. These courses have helped individual participants to become more knowledgeable and stronger in providing leadership in their respective schools. Both the national and provincial organizations have helped, and continue to help, to equip individual student leaders with the necessary tools to enable them to be effective leaders.

The association also provides help for those advisors who are seeking assistance, ideas, and the like so that they can become more effective in their responsibilities. Connections are made through the newsletter, Above and Beyond, as well as electronic e-bulletins to members. Also, CSLA directors make regular presentations at provincial and regional conferences expanding the knowledge base of advisors.

CSLA has developed print resources starting with the CASAA Student Activity Sourcebook made available at the Kitchener conference of 1992, and these materials as well as others are made available through direct sales at conferences and the online store. Thirteen scholarships are now offered annually to celebrate and support the efforts of student leaders across the country.


2012 – Canadian Student Leadership Association

It was at the 28th CSLC in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, that the name of the association was changed from the Canadian Association of Student Activity Advisors (CASAA) to the Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA). The name was changed to better suit the association’s present practices of student leadership in Canada.

In the same year, CSLA launched Horizons Leadership Conferences. Horizons Leadership Conferences are one day regional conferences that bring student leadership opportunities to communities and schools across Canada. This program has grown from a small number of conferences a year to over 30 programs in every province and Nunavut.

The organization continued to expand and by adding the Leadership Advisor Development Certification Program to its support system. Advisors can become stronger through their participation and completion of the four-stage certification process.


2020 – Expanding and Exploring New Programs 

With the continued success of our flagship programs, the Canadian Student Leadership Conference and Horizons Leadership Conferences, our reach continues to grow across Canada. Change Café was added to our program line up in 2020. Change Café is a half-day program to compliment Horizons Leadership Conferences that brings together student leaders and community leaders for a morning of conversation and visions for change.

In June of 2020 we further deepened our program offerings by adding the Student Leadership Certification Program. The SLCP is a 4-level self-directed leadership program for student leaders across Canada aged 13-18 that covers all facets of student leadership from the early stages of planning to facilitating events to community outreach, school culture and climate and understanding more about yourself as a leader.