1816 First Common School Act in Upper Canada allows adults to attend public schools to learn reading, writing and arithmetic.
1850 Private night schools for adults are established - primarily in urban centres.
1855 First night schools open in Toronto.
1859 Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Kingston begins what may be Canada’s first formal adult literacy program.
1867 The Constitution Act of 1867 gives the provinces responsibility for education - and so autonomous education systems develop in the provinces and territories.
1899 Alfred Fitzpatrick, founder of Frontier College, sets up his first Reading Camp in Northern Ontario, providing worker-teachers to northern mining and lumber camps. Teachers work alongside labourers during the day and teach them to read and write at night.
1903 Albert Mansbridge founds the Workers' Educational Association (WEA), a non-profit, non-partisan charitable organization dedicated to lifelong learning.
1920 The Antigonish Movement - which employs adult education to build self-reliance and rebuild the economies in small communities in the Maritimes – is started up by two priests, Father Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins, at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
1935 Canadian Association for Adult Education (CAAE), the first national organization dedicated solely to the field of adult education, is founded as a clearinghouse to serve professionals in the field.
1947 Roby Kidd becomes the first Canadian citizen to earn doctorate in adult education.
1950s Ontario School Boards deliver federally funded literacy programs.
1955 World Literacy of Canada begins to promote literacy education and community development internationally.
1960 Canada Manpower and Immigration funds academic upgrading across the country through the Basic Training for Skills Development (BTSD) program as part of its overall strategy for labour market skills development.
1961 Canadian Census identifies adult illiteracy as a major educational issue.
1964 School Boards pass delivery of literacy programs (BTSD) over to the colleges who deliver literacy first with federal funding and, subsequently, (1981) with federal and provincial funding.
1965 World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy and proclaims September 8 as International Literacy Day.
1967 The Adult Occupational Act is passed to retrain unemployed and undereducated individuals; which in turn, leads to the New Start Program, which “reveals that a number of Canadian adults are not educated enough to qualify for retraining”, bringing out the need for more extensive adult basic education.

September 8th marks the first celebration of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day.
1968 Rochdale College, an experiment in alternative student-run education and co-operative living in Toronto, provides space for 840 residents in a co-operative living space and is also a free university where students and teachers live together and share knowledge. The project ultimately fails when it cannot cover its costs, closing in 1975.
1969 The Official Languages Act leads to an explosion of second-language teaching across the country and further contributes to awareness of the large numbers of undereducated adults.
1970s Arthur de W. Smith works extensively on identifying generic skills related to occupational training, which is documented in Generic Skills for Occupational Training.
1970s From 1970 on, Canada Manpower and Immigration gradually withdraws from funding skills training.
1976 World Literacy of Canada conducts the first national survey of adult literacy in Canada, Adult Basic Education and Literacy Activities in Canada.
1981 Technical Upgrading Program (TUP) is created, a college-delivered upgrading program geared to preparing people for employment and further training.
1983 Adult Illiteracy in Canada - A Challenge, an occasional paper for the Canadian Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is released.
1985 The task of developing a national strategy within the jurisdiction of the federal government is given to the Department of the Secretary of State, which begins a lengthy process of consultation with all possible stakeholders.
1987 Southam Inc. releases Broken Words, a landmark survey of literacy levels among Canadians which helps to galvanize public awareness and support for literacy.

Ministry of Citizenship and Culture begins funding community-based literacy programs.
1988 The National Literacy Secretariat (NLS) is established by the federal government to bring national leadership and perspective on literacy issues across Canada.
1989 Ministry of Skills Development is given responsibility for literacy while English as a Second Language (ESL) programming remains the responsibility of the Ministry of Multiculturalism and Citizenship.
1990 The United Nations declares 1990 the International Year of Literacy.
1991 Goal: Ontario Literacy for Deaf People (GOLD), now Deaf Literacy Initiative (DLI), is founded. Under the auspices of the OLC a steering committee was established to develop the bylaws and an operational plan for GOLD.
1992 Ministry of Education publishes Adult Literacy in Ontario, a report that provides the Ontario statistics and analysis based on the national of Literacy Skills Used in Daily Activities (LSUDA) survey of 1990. Ontario was found to have higher literacy levels (55.8%) than the national average of Ontario’s adult with 52.4%.
1993 Ontario Training and Adjustment Board (OTAB) is given responsibility for literacy. Its efforts includes the Literacy Field Development Support (LFDS) funding program and formal funding criteria and applications for networks.
1994 The federal government launches its Essential Skills Research Project based on the National Occupation Codes (NOC), a standardized way of describing occupations.
1995 Workplace/Workforce Employment and Basic Skills (W/WEBS) forms from the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board (OTAB) to integrate three previous, funding programs in Ontario–the Multiculturalism in the Workplace Program, Labour Adjustment Preparatory Program and the employer-initiated Ontario Basic Skills in the Workplace (OBSW).
1996 The Conference Board of Canada releases its report: Employability Skills Profile: The Critical Skills Required of the Canadian Workforce.
1997 The federal government increases the annual allocation of the National Literacy Secretariat (NLS) to $30 million and targets the additional money to family literacy, workplace literacy, and new technology.
1998 Ontario introduces the five level matrix of learning outcomes for Literacy and Basic Skills, which forms a framework for literacy training across all literacy agencies in the province.
1999 The Ministry of Education and Training separates into two separate ministries–the Ministry of Education (EDU) and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU).
2000 International Adult Learners’ Week (IALW) is officially launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on September 8 as a priority project that fosters joint action by a broad network and raises the profile of adult learning throughout Canada.
2001 The Ministry of Community and Social Services introduces mandatory literacy testing for new Ontario Works (OW) applicants who have not completed Grade 12 or the equivalent.
2002 The National Summit on Innovation and Learning’s 500 delegates sends a strong signal to governments in Canada that it is time to seriously address the problem of low literacy in Canada.
2003 The federal Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities presents its report Raising Adult Literacy Skills: The Need for a Pan-Canadian Response, making 21 recommendations including a call for a Pan-Canadian accord on literacy and numeracy skills development.
2004 Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) approves the ACE (Academic and Career Entrance) program for delivery by all community colleges.
2005 The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills presents its report, 'Towards a Fully Literate Canada: Achieving National Goals through a Comprehensive Pan-Canadian Literacy Strategy', to the Minister of State for Human Resources Development.
2006 The federal government withdraws support for the provincial/territorial National Literacy Secretariat (NLS) project grants. Core funding is provided to provincial and territorial literacy coalitions.
2008 Rapid Re-employment and Training Service (RRTS) through Employment Ontario (EO) involves the coordination of Employment Ontario programs and funding in order to quickly respond to and provide effective programs and services to help affected workers and local communities adjust in downturn situations.
2009 Ontario government announces $90 million in additional spending for the following two years for adult literacy and basic skills with funds from the federal Strategic Training Transition Fund of the Labour Market Agreement, targeted towards expansion of literacy and basic skills training, workplace literacy and distance learning.
2010 The OLC hosts Spotlight on Learning: Becoming Agents of Change Conference, in partnership with the five eastern provinces’ literacy coalitions.
2011 The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) assesses the level and distribution of adult skills in a coherent and consistent way across countries.
2012 The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) now requires literacy agencies to no longer use the Information Management System (IMS) and to begin using a much more comprehensive reporting system called Employment Ontario Information System/Case Management (EOIS/CaMS).