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.

Her Excellency Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada with the 2019 laureates, Mentorship Program mentor and protégé and the GGPAAF Board of Directors at Rideau Hall.
Photo: LS Anne-Marie Brisson, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2019

Each year, Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards are presented for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in the five categories of theatre, dance, classical music, popular music, and film and broadcasting. 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 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

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. 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 the nearly 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 National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is Canada’s public producer of award-winning creative documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences. The NFB has produced over 13,000 productions and won over 7,000 awards, including 24 Canadian Screen Awards, 21 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 100 Genies. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit or download our apps for mobile devices.

The NFB has partnered with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards since 2008, producing 91 short film portraits to date that capture the essence of each GGPAA recipient. Featured at the annual GGPAA Gala and available online at, these films allow all Canadians to be part of this celebration. A tribute to performing arts excellence, and an inspired collection of works in their own right, the NFB’s GGPAA shorts are a legacy for all Canadians.

The Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation Board of Directors 2020:

Douglas Knight, C.M. | Chair and CEO

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

Simon Brault, C.C.
Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts

Claude Joli-Coeur
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

Susan Aglukark, O.C.
Singer-songwriter and humanitarian

Dean Brinton
Crown Corporation Director

Denise Donlon, C.M.
Broadcasting Executive, Author

Jean André Élie, C.M.
Corporate Director

D’Arcy Levesque
Communications Consultant

Jayne Watson
CEO, National Arts Centre Foundation


Whitney Taylor
Executive Director and Secretary to the Board of Directors

Jami Rundle
Communications Manager