The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (GGPAA) are Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. The awards recognize a stellar array of artists and arts volunteers for their outstanding contribution to culture in Canada and abroad.

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, and his wife Gerda (1935-2023).

Her Excellency Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, with the 2024 GGPAA laureates, Mentorship Program mentor and protégée, and the GGPAA Foundation's Board of Directors at Rideau Hall on June 7, 2024.
Photo: Sgt Anis Assari, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2024

Each year, Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards are presented for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in the five categories of Stages (formerly theatre), dance, classical music, popular music, and Screens and Voices (formerly broadcasting and film). These awards recognize artists who have made an indelible contribution to Canada and the world’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 corporate and artistic leadership.

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 Performing Arts: A commemorative medallion from the Mint.

  • NAC Award: A $25,000 cash prize from the NAC and a commemorative medallion from the Mint.

A History of the Awards

Created in 1992 by the late Peter Herrndorf, C.C. (1940-2023), and Brian Robertson, under the distinguished patronage of the late Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, then-Governor General of Canada, and his wife Gerda, these prestigious awards are presented annually to Canadians whose accomplishments have inspired and enriched the cultural life of our country. Nominations for these highly acclaimed awards are submitted by members of the public to recognize artists who have made a lifetime commitment and contribution to the performing arts in Canada.
The idea for the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (GGPAA) goes back to the late 1980s and a discussion between Peter Herrndorf 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. 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.
In over three 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.

The Governor General’s Foot Guards perform at the 2003 Gala.
Photo: 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 foster awareness of Canada’s diverse linguistic and cultural groups

  • To foster awareness of indigenous performing artists

  • 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 raised its curtains for the first time in 1969. A bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for Canada’s most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams — the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre and NAC Presents. The Centre’s national role is reflected in its motto: “Canada is our Stage.” The NAC collaborates with artists and arts organizations across the country, acts as a catalyst for performance; invests in ambitious new works by artists and arts organizations nation-wide; and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. Situated on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation, the NAC is accessible and welcoming to all, and offers a variety of free programming and events.

About the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder, with a mandate to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts. The Council champions and invests in artistic excellence through a broad range of grants, services, prizes and payments to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations. Its work ensures that excellent, vibrant and diverse art and literature engages Canadians, enriches their communities and reaches markets around the world. The Council also raises public awareness and appreciation of the arts through its communications, research and arts promotion activities. It is responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO in Canada to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts.

About the National Film Board of Canada

The NFB is Canada’s public producer and distributor of award-winning documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences, working with talented creators across the country. The NFB is taking action to combat systemic racism and become a more open and diverse organization, while working to strengthen Indigenous-led production and gender equity in film and digital media. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including 12 Oscars. To access this unique content, visit

The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation Board of Directors 2023:

Douglas Knight, C.M. | Chair and CEO

Anik Bissonnette, O.C. | Co-Chair
Dancer, teacher and artistic director

Michelle Chawla
Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts

Suzanne Guèvremont
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson, National Film Board of Canada

Christopher Deacon
President and CEO, National Arts Centre

Stephen H. Saslove, CPA, CA, CGA | Treasurer
Chartered Professional Accountant

Dean Brinton
Crown Corporation Director

Jean André Élie, C.M.
Corporate Director

Andrew Mosker
President and CEO, National Music Centre


Whitney Taylor
Executive Director and Secretary to the Board of Directors

Delia Fagundes
Interim Communications Manager

Jami Rundle
Communications Manager