This year’s Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards will be a star-studded affair, with internationally renowned actors Ryan Reynolds, Catherine O’Hara and Tantoo Cardinal among the laureates.
Vancouver-born Reynolds, whose big-screen credits include The Proposal, Green Lantern and Deadpool, will receive the National Arts Centre Award, which recognizes work by an artist or company in the past performance year.
Meanwhile, Toronto-born comedy great O’Hara of Schitt’s Creek and SCTV fame will get a lifetime artistic achievement award at the ceremony in April.
Getting the same honour is First Nations actress Tantoo Cardinal, who was born in Fort McMurray, Alta., and stars in the series Stumptown.
Other 2020 lifetime artistic achievement winners include Vancouver-born composer Alexina Louie, who has written for the stage and screen, and Quebec-based Innu singer-songwriter Florent Vollant, who has worked extensively with Indigenous musicians.
‘Thank you to all … who spent time on the road with me’
Vollant has lived a life largely on the road, performing concerts and blazing a trail for Indigenous musicians, and said he’s happy the honour gives him a chance to thank those around him who have supported his nomadic lifestyle.
“I can’t do it alone,” the father of five said in a phone interview from a Montreal airport while on his way to Sept-Îles, Que., where he grew up on the Maliotenam reserve.
“I need my family, I need my children. And when people said, ‘We’ll give you something to help you to continue,’ I say: ‘Thank you to my family — thank you to all of them who spent time on the road with me.”‘
But while he was excited about the honour, Vollant’s thoughts were also on the divide between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and federal and provincial leaders over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
“Do we choose economy or life — for our children, for the next generation? It’s what I’m thinking about. It makes me sad,” said Vollant, whose songs touch on themes including diversity and inclusion.
“I’m happy when they give me a chance to say thank you,” Vollant added.
“But I’m also thinking about the tensions we have, actually. I’m thinking about my brothers and my sisters and all the people across the country.”
Vollant’s four-decade career has seen him perform in the Juno Award-winning First Nations folk-rock duo Kashtin, with fellow Innu musician Claude McKenzie, and then as a solo artist. He’s recorded six albums, founded a recording studio for Indigenous musicians, created a songwriting circle for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth and collaborated with artists including Robbie Robertson. He’s also a passionate advocate for the preservation of Quebec’s waterways.
‘Heroes whose art inspires, informs and delights’
The lifetime artistic achievement list is rounded out by Montreal-based dancer-choreographer Zab Maboungou, who pioneered a contemporary movement technique that draws on the rhythms of traditional Central African music and dance.
The recipient of the 2020 Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for voluntarism in the performing arts is ballroom dancer/human resources consultant Lynda Hamilton, who hails from British Columbia.
The awards also include a mentorship program in which past recipients offer guidance to Canadian artists in mid-career. This year’s participants are playwright Suzanne Lebeau as the mentor and theatre artist Marie-Eve Huot as the protégé.
The 2020 laureates will be honoured at three events in Ottawa, culminating in the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards gala at the National Arts Centre on April 25.
“Our 2020 laureates are national heroes whose art inspires, informs and delights,” said a statement from Douglas Knight, chair and CEO of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation, and Anik Bissonnette, co-chair of the foundation.
Created in 1992, the awards are presented annually to “Canadians whose accomplishments have inspired and enriched the cultural life of our country,” says a news release. Nominations are submitted by members of the public.