Governor General's Performing Arts Award

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The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards are an annual Canadian award, presented to honour distinguished achievements in Canadian performing arts and culture. Administered by the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation in association with the National Arts Centre, they present lifetime achievement awards for work in all performing arts domains, including theatre, dance, film, television and radio broadcasting and both popular and classical music; the awards are, however, not necessarily presented exclusively to performers, and may also honour people who have had distinguished careers in the business side of cultural industries, such as film, television and theatre directors and producers.

The awards were created in 1992 under the patronage of then Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn and his wife Gerda Hnatyshyn.[1]

From 1992 to 2014, they typically honoured six figures per year;[2] since 2015 they have honoured five. In addition to the lifetime awards, they also present the National Arts Centre Award to honour a figure who has had significant career achievements within the past year but is not yet considered to be at the "lifetime achievement" stage of their career, and the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts to honour people who have been active in voluntary service to the arts.

Recipients of the lifetime achievement and NAC awards receive $25,000 and a commemorative medallion; recipients of the RJH award receive a medallion, but are not given money. The awards are presented at a live gala at the National Arts Centre, and are typically recorded for broadcast by CBC Television at a later date.

Once inducted into one of the main "lifetime achievement" categories, a recipient is not honoured again in future years; however, a recipient of the NAC or RJH awards may be later named as a lifetime achievement recipient.


In 1994, Paul Gessell of the Ottawa Citizen criticized the foundation for honouring Neil Young, on the grounds that he had lived in the United States for many years and had, according to Gessell, "turned his back" on Canada, and Gilles Vigneault due to his support of the Quebec sovereignty movement.[3] He further predicted, correctly, that Joni Mitchell would be an honoree in the near future, but opined that she was an inappropriate choice for the same reason as Young.[3] In 2001 he criticized the awards for paying lip service to diversity in Canadian arts despite the fact that only two people of colour, pianists Oscar Peterson and Jon Kimura Parker, had ever been named as honorees as of that time.[4]

One named honoree in 2005, singer-songwriter and poet Raymond Lévesque, declined the honour due to his support of the Quebec sovereignty movement.[5] The awards proceeded that year with five lifetime honorees instead of six.[6]

In 2018, Governor General Julie Payette faced controversy when she announced that she would not be presiding over the ceremony, the first time in the history of the awards that the sitting governor general did not attend.[7] Payette offered little clarification of her reasons for not attending, but had faced some criticism since the beginning of her term around her apparently limited workload.[7]



Year Recipient Discipline Ref
1992 William Hutt Theatre [8]
Gweneth Lloyd Dance
Dominique Michel Broadcasting
Mercedes Palomino Theatre
Oscar Peterson Popular music
Léopold Simoneau Classical music
Norman Jewison Hnatyshyn Award
Gilles Maheu, Carbone 14 National Arts Centre Award
1993 Ludmilla Chiriaeff Dance [9]
Leonard Cohen Popular music
Don Haig Film
Lois Marshall Classical music
Monique Mercure Theatre
Gilles Vigneault Popular music
Joan Chalmers Hnatyshyn Award
Michel Marc Bouchard and Les Deux Mondes National Arts Centre Award
1994 Frédéric Back Film [10]
Robert Charlebois Popular music
Celia Franca Dance
Frances Hyland Theatre
Jean Papineau-Couture Classical music
Neil Young Popular music
Sandra Kolber Hnatyshyn Award
Robert Lepage National Arts Centre Award
1995 Denys Arcand Film [11]
Maureen Forrester Classical music
Peter Gzowski Broadcasting
Paul Hébert Theatre
Anne Murray Popular music
Jeanne Renaud Dance
Arthur Gelber Hnatyshyn Award
Ben Heppner National Arts Centre Award
1996 François Barbeau Theatre [12]
Michel Brault Film
Martha Henry Theatre
Joni Mitchell Popular music
Luc Plamondon Popular music
Grant Strate Dance
Martha Lou Henley Hnatyshyn Award
Jon Kimura Parker National Arts Centre Award
1997 Gilles Carle Film [13]
Nicholas Goldschmidt Classical music
Monique Leyrac Popular music
Gordon Lightfoot Popular music
Betty Oliphant Dance
Jean-Pierre Ronfard Theatre
Maryvonne Kendergi Hnatyshyn Award
Karen Kain National Arts Centre Award
1998 Paul Buissonneau Theatre [14]
Bruce Cockburn Popular music
Rock Demers Film
Royal Canadian Air Farce Broadcasting
Arnold Spohr Dance
Jon Vickers Classical music
Joseph H. Shoctor Hnatyshyn Award
Denis Marleau National Arts Centre Award
1999 David Cronenberg Film [15]
Denise Filiatrault Broadcasting
Mavor Moore Theatre
Louis Quilico Classical music
Ginette Reno Popular music
Michel Tremblay Theatre
Sam Sniderman Hnatyshyn Award
Mario Bernardi National Arts Centre Award


Due to a change in the award's scheduling from fall to spring, the awards were not presented in 2007.[16]

Year Recipient Discipline Ref
2000 Janette Bertrand Broadcasting [17]
Stompin' Tom Connors Popular music
Fernand Nault Dance
Christopher Newton Theatre
Teresa Stratas Dance
Donald Sutherland Film
Walter Carsen Hnatyshyn Award
Cirque du Soleil National Arts Centre Award
2001 Mario Bernardi Classical music [18]
Diane Dufresne Popular music
Max Ferguson Broadcasting
Evelyn Hart Dance
Christopher Plummer Theatre
Anne Claire Poirier Film
Thea Borlase Hnatyshyn Award
Édouard Lock and La La La Human Steps National Arts Centre Award
2002 André Brassard Theatre [19]
Joy Coghill Theatre
The Guess Who Popular music
Karen Kain Dance
Phil Nimmons Popular music
Jean-Pierre Perreault Dance
Fernand Lindsay Hnatyshyn Award
Angela Hewitt National Arts Centre Award
2003 Pierrette Alarie Classical music [20]
Dave Broadfoot Broadcasting
Douglas Campbell Theatre
Norman Jewison Film
Micheline Lanctôt Film
Ian Tyson Popular music
Sandra Pitblado, Jim Pitblado Hnatyshyn Award
Marie Chouinard National Arts Centre Award
2004 Kate & Anna McGarrigle Popular music [21]
Gordon Pinsent Film
Jean-Louis Roux Theatre
Joseph Rouleau Classical music
Veronica Tennant Dance
Eric Till Film
Constance Pathy Hnatyshyn Award
Rick Mercer National Arts Centre Award
2005 Peter Boneham Dance [6]
Jackie Burroughs Film
Marcel Dubé Theatre
Oliver Jones Popular music
Moses Znaimer Broadcasting
Gail Asper Hnatyshyn Award
k.d. lang National Arts Centre Award
2006 Jacques Languirand Broadcasting [22]
Lorne Michaels Broadcasting
Albert Millaire Theatre
Robbie Robertson Popular music
Joysanne Sidimus Dance
Mark Starowicz Broadcasting
Georges Laoun, Sherif Laoun Hnatyshyn Award
Richard Bradshaw National Arts Centre Award
2007 Not presented [16]
2008 Anton Kuerti Classical music [23]
Eugene Levy Broadcasting
Brian Macdonald Dance
John Murrell Theatre
Alanis Obomsawin Film
Michel Pagliaro Popular music
Eric Charman Hnatyshyn Award
The Tragically Hip National Arts Centre Award
2009 Peggy Baker Dance [24]
Édith Butler Popular music
Clémence DesRochers Broadcasting
Robert Lepage Theatre
R. Murray Schafer Classical music
George F. Walker Theatre
James D. Fleck Hnatyshyn Award
Paul Gross National Arts Centre Award


Jazz singer Michael Bublé was named as the recipient of the National Arts Centre award in 2016;[25] however, as he was unable to attend the gala due to vocal cord surgery, he received the award at the 2017 gala instead.[26]

Year Recipient Discipline Ref
2010 Bryan Adams Popular music [27]
Françoise Faucher Theatre
Walter Homburger Classical music
Édouard Lock Dance
Robin Phillips Theatre
Buffy Sainte-Marie Popular music
Mohammad Faris, Yulanda Faris Hnatyshyn Award
Yannick Nézet-Séguin National Arts Centre Award
2011 Yvon Deschamps Theatre [28]
Margie Gillis Dance
William Shatner Broadcasting
Howard Shore Film
Leslee Silverman Theatre
Paul Thompson Theatre
Jean-André Élie Hnatyshyn Award
Denis Villeneuve National Arts Centre Award
2012 Janina Fialkowska Classical music [29]
Paul-André Fortier Dance
Denis Marleau Theatre
Deepa Mehta Film
Rush Popular music
Mary Walsh Broadcasting
Earlaine Collins Hnatyshyn Award
Des McAnuff National Arts Centre Award
2013 Andrew Dawes Classical music [30]
Daniel Lanois Popular music
Jean Pierre Lefebvre Film
Viola Léger Theatre
Eric Peterson Theatre
Menaka Thakkar Dance
Jean-Pierre Desrosiers Hnatyshyn Award
Sarah Polley National Arts Centre Award
2014 Anik Bissonnette Dance [31]
Blue Rodeo Popular music
Brent Carver Theatre
Tom Jackson Broadcasting
Louise Lecavalier Dance
Janine Sutto Theatre
Jean Giguère Hnatyshyn Award
Albert Schultz National Arts Centre Award
2015 Walter Boudreau Classical music [32]
Atom Egoyan Film
Diana Leblanc Theatre
Sarah McLachlan Popular music
R. H. Thomson Theatre
Michael M. Koerner Hnatyshyn Award
Jean-Marc Vallée National Arts Centre Award
2016 Susan Aglukark Popular music [25]
Marie Chouinard Dance
Ben Heppner Classical music
Robert Lantos Film
Suzanne Lebeau Theatre
John D. McKellar Hnatyshyn Award
Michael Bublé (presentation delayed to 2017) National Arts Centre Award
2017 Jean Beaudin Film [33]
Michael J. Fox Broadcasting
Brigitte Haentjens Theatre
Martin Short Broadcasting
Yves Sioui Durand Theatre
William H. Loewen Hnatyshyn Award
Michael Bublé (award from 2016) National Arts Centre Award
2018 Andrew Alexander Broadcasting [34]
Geneviève Bujold Film
Angela Hewitt Classical music
Ginette Laurin Dance
Murray McLauchlan Popular music
Peter Herrndorf Special Award
Florence Junca Adenot Hnatyshyn Award
Tegan and Sara National Arts Centre Award
2019 Louise Bessette Classical music [35]
Colm Feore Film
Rick Mercer Broadcasting
Lorraine Pintal Theatre
Mavis Staines Dance
E. Noël Spinelli Hnatyshyn Award
Sandra Oh National Arts Centre Award


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the 2020 gala was cancelled; however, as that year's recipients had already been announced in February before COVID-related lockdowns came into effect, they were honoured at a 2021 gala, with no new honorees named for 2021 itself.[36]

Year Recipient Discipline Ref
2020-21 Tantoo Cardinal Broadcasting and film [37]
Alexina Louie Classical music
Zab Maboungou Dance
Catherine O'Hara Broadcasting and film
Florent Vollant Popular music
Lynda Hamilton Hnatyshyn Award
Ryan Reynolds National Arts Centre Award
2022 Fernand Dansereau Broadcasting and film [38]
David Foster Popular music
Rita Deverell Broadcasting and film
Tomson Highway Theatre
Linda Rabin Dance
Michelle Smith Hnatyshyn Award
Crystal Pite National Arts Centre Award
2023 Michel Marc Bouchard Theatre [39]
Molly Johnson Popular music
James Kudelka Dance
Rosemarie Landry Classical music
k.d. lang Popular music
John Kim Bell Hnatyshyn Award
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee National Arts Centre Award


  1. ^ Rod Currie, "Governor-general unveils new lifetime awards for performing arts". Montreal Gazette, September 23, 1992.
  2. ^ Dianne Rinehart, "Canada honors its own with newly crafted prize". Vancouver Sun, November 9, 1992.
  3. ^ a b Paul Gessell, "Back Canada or decline arts award". Ottawa Citizen, November 6, 1994.
  4. ^ Paul Gessell, "Great Canadians, eh?: The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards are meant to be a celebration of the country's most important artists. But as Paul Gessell notes, they're not exactly a reflection of the new multicultural Canada". Ottawa Citizen, November 1, 2001.
  5. ^ "Poet rejects G-G arts award over sovereignty issues". Windsor Star, October 26, 2005.
  6. ^ a b Kelly Roesler, "Seven award winners revel in song and dance". Ottawa Citizen, November 6, 2005.
  7. ^ a b Brian Platt, "Julie Payette won't preside over 2018 Governor General's History Awards ceremony". National Post, September 26, 2018.
  8. ^ "Awards honor elite in arts". Windsor Star, September 9, 1992.
  9. ^ "Vigneault, Chiriaeff, Mercure, Cohen among Performing Arts honorees". Halifax Daily News, October 6, 1993.
  10. ^ "Charlebois, Neil Young receive arts awards from Hnatyshyn". Montreal Gazette, November 7, 1994.
  11. ^ Susan Riley, "Forrester, Murray head list of winners". Vancouver Sun, September 20, 1995.
  12. ^ "Governor General arts awards for six". Hamilton Spectator, September 18, 1996.
  13. ^ Bonnie Malleck, "Governor General's Awards celebrate six outstanding artists". Waterloo Region Record, December 27, 1997.
  14. ^ Andrew Flynn, "It's no farce: Comedy troupe, Bruce Cockburn among recipients of Governor General's Performing Arts awards". St. Catharines Standard, September 22, 1998.
  15. ^ "Six get Governor General Performing Arts awards". Timmins Daily Press, September 29, 1999.
  16. ^ a b "Performing arts awards pushed back to May". Waterloo Region Record, September 22, 2007.
  17. ^ Bruce Deachman, "Stompin' Tom comes close to tears at Governor-General's Performing Arts Awards". National Post, November 6, 2000.
  18. ^ "Plummer, Max Ferguson among those receiving Gov-Gen. awards". Nanaimo Daily News, September 29, 2001.
  19. ^ "Kain heads list of GG winners". Peterborough Examiner, November 2, 2002.
  20. ^ John McKay, "Governor General's Awards announced". Welland Tribune, October 1, 2003.
  21. ^ "Governor General winners honoured for life achievement". Guelph Mercury, September 22, 2004.
  22. ^ Paul Gessell, "Robbie Robertson, Lorne Michaels among those to win Governor General's Performing Arts Awards". Victoria Times-Colonist, September 20, 2006.
  23. ^ "Eugene Levy, Tragically Hip to receive performing arts awards". Whitehorse Star, May 2, 2008.
  24. ^ Maria Cook, "Gross, Lepage receive performing arts awards". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, March 3, 2009.
  25. ^ a b Morgan Lowrie, "Buble and Lantos among winners of Governor General's Performing Arts Awards". Canadian Press, April 14, 2016.
  26. ^ "Surgery delays Buble's NAC prize; Pending vocal cord repair sidelines singer". Ottawa Citizen, May 19, 2016.
  27. ^ "Bryan Adams and Buffy Sainte-Marie among governor general's recipients". Prince George Citizen, February 24, 2010.
  28. ^ "William Shatner, Howard Shore win GG Awards". Times & Transcript, March 4, 2011.
  29. ^ Stephen Hunt, "Rush saluted for four decades of work". Calgary Herald, March 7, 2012.
  30. ^ "Eric Peterson among laureates for lifetime award". Kamloops Daily News, April 11, 2013.
  31. ^ Peter Robb, "Six national art laureates to be feted in Ottawa". Edmonton Journal, March 27, 2014.
  32. ^ Ian McGillis, "Three Montrealers win Governor General's performance awards". Montreal Gazette, April 10, 2015.
  33. ^ Lynn Saxberg, "And The Awards Go To...; Michael J. Fox headlines list of Governor General winners". Ottawa Sun, March 10, 2017.
  34. ^ "And your Governor General Performing Arts Awards honourees are ..." Ottawa Citizen, May 31, 2018.
  35. ^ J. Kelly Nestruck, "Mercer, Feore to receive Governor-General's awards: Killing Eve's Sandra Oh will also be honoured at a gala in April celebrating Canadians in the performing arts". The Globe and Mail, February 28, 2019.
  36. ^ Ted Raymond, "Canadian star Ryan Reynolds awarded 2021 Governor General's Performing Arts Award". CTV News Ottawa, November 27, 2021.
  37. ^ Victoria Ahearn, "Ryan Reynolds among 2020 Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards winners". Toronto Star, February 27, 2020.
  38. ^ Brad Wheeler, "David Foster and playwright Tomson Highway among winners of the 2022 Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards". The Globe and Mail, February 23, 2022.
  39. ^ J. Kelly Nestruck, "2023 Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards to honour k.d. lang, Michel Marc Bouchard". The Globe and Mail, February 23, 2023.

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