The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (GGPAA) are Canada’s foremost distinction for excellence in the performing arts. The awards recognize a stellar array of artists and arts volunteers for their outstanding lifetime contribution to Canada’s cultural life.
The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards were Created in 1992 under the patronage of the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn (1934-2002), then Governor General of Canada. Today, we are honoured to have His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston as our patron.
The Governor General of Canada with the 2015 recipients, Mentorship Program pair and the GGPAAF Board of Directors at Rideau Hall.
Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall
Each year, Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards are presented for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in the categories of theatre, dance, classical music, popular music, film, and broadcasting. These awards recognize artists who have made an indelible contribution to Canada’s cultural life. Recipients of these awards are nominated by the general public.
Two complementary awards are also conferred each year. The Ramon John Hnatyshyn (RJH) Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, which recognizes outstanding contribution by an individual or group in voluntary service to the performing arts in Canada. This Award is also nominated by the general public.
The National Arts Centre Award, which recognizes the work of an extraordinary nature by an individual artist or company in the past performance year. Recipients are selected by the NAC Board of Trustees from a list of candidates proposed by a nominating committee of NAC artistic programmers.
The award recipients receive the following:
Lifetime Artistic Achievement: A $25,000 cash prize contributed by the Canada Council for the Arts and a commemorative medallion struck by the Royal Canadian Mint.
RJH Award for Voluntarism in the Arts: A commemorative medallion from the Mint and a specially commissioned work by a Canadian artist.
NAC Award: A $25,000 cash prize from the NAC, a commemorative medallion from the Mint and a specially commissioned work by a Canadian artist
Photo: His Excellency David Johnston at the Rideau Hall Ceremony, 2014
Credit: Sgt. Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall
A History of the Awards
The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards were created in 1992 under the patronage of the late Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn (1934–2002), 24th Governor General of Canada, and his wife Gerda.
The idea for the GGPAA goes back to the late 1980s and a discussion between Peter Herrndorf (now President and CEO of the National Arts Centre) and entertainment industry executive Brian Robertson, both of whom were involved at the time with the Toronto Arts Awards Foundation.
When they approached Governor General Hnatyshyn with their proposal for a national performing arts awards program, they received his enthusiastic support. “He became a tremendous fan of the artists receiving the awards each year, the perfect cheerleader in the early years of the program,” recalls Mr. Herrndorf. The GGPAA were officially launched in 1992, with seed money from the federal government in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. The founding members were CBC/Radio-Canada, the National Arts Centre, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Conference of the Arts, with the generous support of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The first GGPAA recipients were announced on September 22, 1992, and the inaugural Gala was held at the National Arts Centre on Saturday, November 7, 1992.
In 2007 the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) joined the Awards Foundation as a creative partner, and agreed to produce a short film about each Award recipient (beginning with the 2008 laureates). After premiering at the GGPAA Gala, these original and engaging films are made available to all Canadians on the Web and in a variety of digital formats.
“The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards are the highest tribute we can offer Canadian artists,” said Judith LaRocque, former Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage and former Secretary to the Governor General, in an interview on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Awards.
“Atlantic Canada is introduced to the talent of Western Canada, and French-speaking and English-speaking artists are introduced to each other and to new audiences. The Awards illustrate the magic of who we are as a country.”
In the two decades since their inception, the GGPAA have grown in stature and developed into preeminent national awards.
They celebrate the talent of our artists and the richness of our culture, underline Canada’s important role as an Arts Nation, and foster a sense of national unity and pride.
Photo : The Governor General’s Foot Guards perform at the 2003 Gala.
Credit: Andrew Balfour
About the Foundation
The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards are administered by the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation, an Ottawa-based, not-for-profit charitable organization governed by a Board of Directors and administered by a small professional staff. The GGPAAF enjoys a dynamic partnership with the National Arts Centre (NAC) which has responsibility for the production of the annual gala performance and the event's fundraising activities.
The Foundation was created and incorporated in 1992 under the patronage of the late Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn (1934-2002).
Its mandate is:
To honour and celebrate the lifetime artistic achievement of Canada’s outstanding performing artists
To foster cross-cultural awareness of Anglophone artists in French Canada and of Francophone artists in English Canada
To raise profile among Canadians of the achievements and contributions of Canadian performing artists at home and abroad
To inspire future performing artists
The Foundation is responsible for coordinating the nomination and selection processes; organizing all special events related to the awards presentation including ceremonies in the House of Commons, at Rideau Hall and the National Arts Centre; and cultivating partnerships to enhance the profile of the awards.
The Foundation is federally incorporated as a registered charity. The Foundation's Board of Directors oversees policy, the allocation of funds and the final selection of recipients.
The Members of the Foundation are:
National Arts Centre (Founding Member)
Canada Council for the Arts (Founding Member)
National Film Board of Canada
About the National Arts Centre
The National Arts Centre collaborates with artists and arts organizations across Canada to help create a national stage for the performing arts, and acts as a catalyst for performance, creation and learning across the country. A home for Canada’s most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams – the NAC Orchestra, English Theatre, French Theatre and Dance, as well as the Scene festivals and NAC Presents, which showcase established and emerging Canadian artists. The NAC also produces and hosts the annual Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala. The awards represent Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. The NAC is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, offering artist training, programs for children and youth, and resources for teachers in communities across Canada. The NAC is also a pioneer in new media, using technology to teach students and young artists around the globe, by creating top-rated podcasts, and providing a wide range of NAC Orchestra concerts on demand. The NAC is the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in Canada, and one of the largest in the world.
About the Canada Council for the Arts
The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s national public arts funder. We champion and invest in artistic excellence so that Canadians may enjoy and participate in a rich cultural life. In 2013-14 we allocated $153.6 million dollars towards artistic creation and innovation through our grants, prizes and payments. We also conduct research, convene activities and work with partners to advance the sector and help embed the arts more deeply in communities across the country. We are responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future for Canadians. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts. The Canada Council is a founding member of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation, and contributes $150,000 annually to the Foundation for the awards.
About the National Film Board of Canada
The National Film Board of Canada
(NFB) is a unique creative organization where Canada’s finest filmmakers, animators and digital creators are given the resources they need to bring their visions to the screen―and the NFB’s more than 13,000 productions to date include a vast collection of works celebrating Canadian excellence in the performing arts.
Since 2008, the NFB has been a partner with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, producing unique signature films that capture the essence of each laureate. The NFB takes care to find the right filmmaker for each laureate, so as to create films that stand on their own as artistic achievements and serve as a lasting cinematic tribute to performing arts excellence.
Sixty-three such films have been produced to date, works that have become an integral part of the Gala and are available to all Canadians free of charge at the NFB’s Online Screening Room, through its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV, as well as in The Performing Arts in Canada: A Celebration, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards e-book.
The NFB is proud of our association with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, as it represents one more way in which we contribute to the vitality of our country’s artistic life―celebrating individuals who have dedicated their lives to artistic excellence, and who are inspirations and role models for future generations of Canadian performing arts pioneers.
The GGPAA Foundation Board of Directors is composed of representatives from the arts and business communities across Canada.
The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation Board of Directors
Douglas Knight | Chair
President, St. Joseph Media Inc.
Paul-André Fortier | Co-Chair
Creator, performer and teacher, Fortier Danse-Création
Peter A. Herrndorf
President and CEO, National Arts Centre
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson, National Film Board of Canada
Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts
Stephen H. Saslove | Treasurer
Vice President, Enterprise Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility
, Enbridge Inc.
John M. Gray
Communications and Administrative Assistant