Governor General's Performing Arts Awards

The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards (GGPAA) are Canada's foremost distinction for excellence in the performing arts. The Awards were created in 1992 by the late Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn (1934-2002), then Governor General of Canada, and his wife Gerda. Since then, the Awards have become a celebration of excellence that introduces all Canadians to new artists, raises our awareness of achievement in varied disciplines, and honours Canadians who, over a lifetime of achievement, have made an indelible contribution to Canadian cultural life.

Each year, the prestigious "Governor General's Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement" are presented to 6 performing artists for their achievements in the fields of theatre, dance, classical music, radio and television broadcasting, popular music and film.

Two complementary awards are also conferred annually: "The Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts" for outstanding contribution in service to the performing arts, and "The National Arts Centre Award," which recognizes work of an extraordinary nature and significance in the performing arts by an individual artist and/or company in the past performance year.


Since their inception in 1992, the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards have been presented by Awards sponsor Bell Canada. Over the years, more than 150 recipients have been honoured with these Awards. Among them are Brian MACDONALD, Diane DUFRESNE, THE GUESS WHO, Angela HEWITT, Michel TREMBLAY, Phil NIMMONS, Maureen FORRESTER, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, THE TRAGICALLY HIP, Paul GROSS, Donald SUTHERLAND, Neil YOUNG, k.d. LANG, Mario BERNARDI, Anne MURRAY and many others.

Each recipient of a Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award receives a $25,000 cash award provided by the Canada Council for the Arts and a commemorative medallion.

Recipients of the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award are presented with a commissioned artwork and a commemorative medallion.

National Arts Centre Award recipients receive a $25,000 cash award from the NAC, an original artwork and a commemorative medallion.

In 2008, a Mentorship Program became an important initiative of the GGPAAs. This program brings together a past recipient of a Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award and a talented mid-career artist, helping the latter to develop his or her work, explore ideas and navigate career options. The selected protégé receives an honorarium and showcases a work at the Awards Gala.

Nominations and Selection

Nominations for the Lifetime Artistic Achievement and the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Awards are solicited from the general public. Nominations are reviewed by a specific peer assessment jury for each award category. Each jury is made up of 5 individuals chosen for their expertise in their particular discipline, including performing artists, managers, impresarios, directors, teachers, critics, and producers. The juries are selected each year by the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation.

Following deliberations, each jury makes recommendations of 3 candidates in their particular award category. Those names are then submitted to the Board of Directors of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation, which makes the final selection of the individual winners. Particular disciplines may not be represented every year on the final slate of recipients.

Recipients of the NAC Award are selected by the Board of Trustees of the National Arts Centre from a list of candidates proposed by a nominating committee of senior NAC artistic programmers.

Honouring the Recipients

Each year, a series of events are held to celebrate the new recipients. Traditionally, the recipients are announced at a news conference held in the early spring, then honoured at a series of special events held concurrently over a three-day Gala weekend in early May.

The NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE has always been a strong and active partner of the GGPAA. The NAC is responsible for the production of the Gala as well as its fundraising and marketing. The Foundation and NAC work closely together to enhance the profile of the Awards and recipients.


The Awards are administered by the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation, a non-governmental, not-for-profit charitable organization based in Ottawa. The Foundation is governed by a national Board comprised of the Foundation's members - the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Conference of the Arts, National Arts Centre and National Film Board of Canada - as well as individual board members from Canada's arts and business communities. The Foundation is responsible for the nomination process, organizing events related to the Awards presentation and cultivating partnerships to enhance the profile of the Awards.