On March 6, 1909, the Co-operative Union of Canada (CUC) held its inaugural meeting in Hamilton, Ontario. Its goal was to bring together co-operatives, act as voice for the fledgling co-operative movement and lobby the federal government for legislation that would benefit the co-operative sector. CUC's membership increased dramatically in the 1910s and 1920s with the emergence of the trade union movement and growing militancy among Canadian farmers. While co-operatives, like other businesses, were affected by the Great Depression, the 1930s was generally a period of growth for the CUC as a result of the development of the Wheat Pools in Western Canada and the Antigonish Movement, which organized numerous co-operatives in Atlantic Canada.
After the Second World War, CUC became active in international development as part of the effort to provide relief to the war-ravaged population of Europe. During the 1950's and 60's, CUC's international development efforts turned toward the newly independent nations in Africa, Asia and the Americas, which were looking for ways to develop their communities and their economies.
In 1947, the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada was created to undertake co-operative research and educational projects; today it is the fundraising arm of the Canadian Co-operative Association and focuses primarily on supporting CCA's international development activities.
In the 1960s and 1970s, CUC stepped up its lobbying efforts to fight for improved tax legislation that would benefit co-operatives. In 1970, its efforts led to the adoption of the Canada Cooperatives Associations Act, the first legislation specifically aimed at the co-operative sector. CUC began to play a more visible role on Parliament Hill and presented positions on a variety of public issues.
In 1987, CUC merged with the Co-operative College of Canada, the co-op movement's educational arm, to form the Canadian Co-operative Association.