The Canada Life Assurance Company was established by a Canadian banker called Hugh C. Baker in Hamilton, Ontario in 1846, making it the first life insurance company in Canada.
While Canada had a growing population and increasing prosperity at this time, it was also spread out geographically. In 1848 the company hired George Baker Jr. as a travelling agent. In addition to signing up new businesses, Baker Jr. also promoted the company in free lectures and information published in local newspapers.
In 1849 a Provisional Charter of Incorporation was granted. To commemorate the occasion, Canada Life obtained a coat of arms for the company, which included a crest depicting a pelican feeding its young, a medieval symbol of charity and devotion. The pelican image was used in Canada Life logos for over 50 years.
In 1900 the head office was moved from Hamilton to Toronto and Canada Life entered a period of rapid expansion. The company spread across Canada and branches were established in Calgary and Vancouver, and in 1902 Canada Life established a presence in the UK.
In 1959 Canada Life became a mutual company and began to expand internationally by the acquisition of insurance operations in the UK and Ireland. In 2003 Canada Life became part of the Great-West Lifeco group of companies.