The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) has progressed from a vision initiated by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging in 2001 to a federally funded national research platform in 2008. The development of the CLSA protocol was enhanced through a series of international peer reviews, a multisectorial Steering Committee, and a CIHR Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues committee; each was essential to the excellence of the science and to making the CLSA relevant to multiple sectors. The CLSA research team, led by three co-principal investigators (Kirkland, Raina, and Wolfson), has developed a unique protocol focusing on aging from cell to society, designed to follow 50,000 people aged 45 to 85, for 20 years. A strategic partnership with Statistics Canada has been crucial to the development and launch of the CLSA. The CLSA will contribute to our understanding of transitions and trajectories within an aging population, and will differ from longitudinal studies of aging worldwide through the breadth of its scope, the early age of recruitment into the study (age 45), the ethno-cultural diversity of Canada’s population, and the potential to link collected data to health administrative data at the provincial level. The CIHR is a novel longitudinal population-based study that will be an unprecedented research resource underpinning multidisciplinary research and evidence-based decision making in aging in Canada.