In 1975, the Canadian Authors Association reinstated its awards for literary achievement, a program originally begun in 1936 with the creation of the Governor General’s medals for literature (now overseen by Canada Council for the Arts). The primary goal in reinstating the awards program was to honour writing that achieves excellence without sacrificing popular appeal.

Three awards were offered in the program’s first year—fiction, poetry and drama. The award for Canadian History was added in 1997, and the award for emerging writers was first offered in 2006.

Referred to by CBC’s The Journal as “The major awards given annually by authors to authors,” the Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards program complements the Canadian Authors Association’s ongoing tradition of writers helping writers. Judging is carried out by panels selected in strictest confidence. Past award recipients have included Carol Shields, Hugh MacLennon, W. P. Kinsella, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Leonard Cohen—and many other literary stars.

A more detailed account of the history of the Canadian Authors Association awards is found in chapter 18 of Syllables of Recorded Time: The Story of the Canadian Authors Association 1921–1981 by Lyn Harrington, 1981. This volume should be available in libraries across Canada, and Canadian Authors Association members have access to a PDF version in the Members Only section of the website.

Awards at a Glance

Please note that the literary awards below are no longer being offeredThe following information is included only to provide an overview of the award categories held in recent years.  


Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction

Established: 1975
For: full-length English language literature for adults by a Canadian writer
Prize: $1,000

Canadian Authors Association Award for Canadian History

Established: 1997
For: historical nonfiction on Canadian topics by a Canadian writer
Prize: $1,000

Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry

Established: 1975
For: full-length English-language book of poems for adults, by a Canadian writer
Prize: $1,000

Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award

Established: 2006
For: a writer under 30 years of age deemed to show exceptional promise in the field of literary creation
Prize: $500