In 1975, the Canadian Authors Association reinstated its awards for literary achievement, a program originally begun in 1937 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 and Canadian Authors Association members have access to a PDF version in the Members Area.
Current awards at a glance
Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction
For: full-length English language literature for adults by a Canadian writer
Canadian Authors Association Award for Canadian History
For: historical nonfiction on Canadian topics by a Canadian writer
Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry
For: full-length English-language book of poems for adults, by a Canadian writer
Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award
For: a writer under 30 years of age deemed to show exceptional promise in the field of literary creation
Each year a trustee for each award appointed by the Canadian Authors Association selects up to three judges. Identities of the trustee and judges are confidential. Decisions of the trustee and judges are final, and they may choose not to award a prize in any awards year.
A shortlist of the top three entries in each category will be announced in May 2016, and the winners will be announced on June 18 at a special awards luncheon held during the Canadian Writers Summit 2016 in Toronto, Ontario. Shortlisted authors will be invited to attend a readings event as well as the awards luncheon.