The domain name was originally allocated by Jon Postel, operator of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), to John Demco of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1987. The first .ca domain was registered by the University of Prince Edward Island in January 1988.
In 1997, at the Canadian annual Internet conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Canadian Internet community, with a view to liberalize registration procedures and substantially improve turnaround times, decided to undertake reform of the .ca Registry.
UBC’s registry operations once favoured fourth-level names (such as city.toronto.on.ca) for purely local entities or third-level names for entities operating solely within one province. Nationally incorporated companies could have a .ca domain, while provincially incorporated companies required the letters of their province, like .mb.ca. Only an entity with presence in two or more provinces was typically registered directly under .ca; this complex structure (and the long delays in getting .ca registration) caused many Canadian entities to favour the .com, .org and .net registrations, despite the then-higher cost.