Crime Writers of Canada was established as a professional organization in June 1982 by Derrick Murdoch, the Globe and Mail’s crime fiction reviewer at the time, and other writers interested in the quality of Canadian mystery and crime writing. The following year the Arthur Ellis (AE) Awards for Excellence in Crime Writing were launched. In 2021, the name was changed to The Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence.

The Derrick Murdoch Award was created in honour of Derrick Murdoch’s inspired creation of CWC. It is awarded every other year to a Canadian crime/mystery writer who has made a notable contribution to the genre. In 2014, the Grand Master Award was created to recognize an author's lifetime achievement in crime writing. The Grand Master award is presented in alternate years.

In 2005, a written constitution formalized the rules and principles of CWC, and in 2006 the organization was federally incorporated as a non-profit corporation by the Canadian Ministry of Industry.

As a non-profit organization, our activities are made possible by hard-working volunteers and committees. Our activities have two main goals: author promotion and professional development.