Canada West is consistently the most decorated of the four conferences in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), winning at least 10 CIS national titles every, 1997 to 2010. Comprised of 16 schools, from the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the CWUAA produces numerous major award winners and Academic All-Canadian student-athletes each year, with many going on to athletic success around the globe in pro leagues or events such as the Olympics, Paralympics or Universiade Games.
The Western Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (WCIAU) was formed in 1919-20 as the first recognized western-based post-secondary athletic organization in Canada, though a few schools did play organized varsity sports a decade or more before. The University of Manitoba won the first-ever league championship, the men's hockey title in 1920. In 1971, the WCIAU was split into the Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA) and the Great Plains Athletic Association (GPAA), the latter consisting primarily of schools from Manitoba. In 1985-86, Canada West absorbed men’s hockey teams from the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) and all other sports have since followed, including the 2001-02 merger of basketball.
Of the 14 schools currently participating in Canada West varsity sports there are six charter members - Alberta, UBC, Calgary, Lethbridge, Saskatchewan and Victoria. Seven more since 1971 - Brandon, Fraser Valley Manitoba, Regina, Thompson Rivers, Trinity Western, Winnipeg - have become official. Simon Fraser withdrew from Canada West / CIS competition after the 2009-10 season. UBC Okanagan was awarded membership effective Sept. 1, 2010, with competition to start in basketball and volleyball during the fall of 2011.
Mount Royal University was voted in on May 4th, 2011, to begin competition in men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, soccer and volleyball in 2011-12, becoming the conference’s 15th institution. On Sept. 20, 2001 the UNBC Timberwolves were added, making them the 16th member.
Men’s and women’s basketball are the only sports in which all 14 active schools participate. Two schools – Alberta and Calgary - take part in all varsity competition offered by the conference. In 2010-11, with 13 schools competing, nine different Canada West institutions won conference titles, while four Canada West schools won a total of five CIS national titles.
For the 2010-11 season, men’s and women’s basketball reverted to a one-division alignment, but 2011-12 will see the return of a two-division format. In 2010-11 Trinity Western added men’s and women’s cross country, track& field and swimming. For 2011-12, Winnipeg has added wrestling. while men’s hockey will revert to a six-team playoff format.
Since 2009-10, women’s rugby has adopted a league format instead of a rotating tournament format. Some Canada West schools take part in CIS curling, where Regina won both men’s and women’s CIS titles during the sport’s first four years as a recognized national championship.
Canada West is one of four conferences within Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the others being Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) and Atlantic University Sport (AUS). Schools representing each conference compete annually for national supremacy.
Schools, team officials and individual student-athletes must abide by posted Canada West and CIS policies, including bylaws, regulations and eligibility requirements.
Overall, Canada West schools compete for 19 conference championships and 21 national varsity titles, though schools may participate in as few as four each (two women’s, two men’s). Canada West has no formalized league competition in curling.