Molson Prize | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Molson Prize

The Molson Prize recognizes outstanding achievement in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and is “intended to encourage continuing contributions to the cultural and intellectual heritage of Canada.” It is administered jointly by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Two prizes of $50,000 are awarded each year: one in the arts, and one in the humanities and social sciences.


The award was initially created to encourage and recognize outstanding contributors to the arts, humanities, social sciences or national unity. Originally presented as a $15,000 award in 1964, the prize was increased to $25,000 in 1982 and to $50,000 in 1983. It is funded by the interest on a $1 million endowment given to the Canada Council by the Molson Foundation (see John Molson; Molson Coors Brewing Company). Four prizes were presented in 1982 to celebrate the Canada Council's 25th anniversary. Beginning in 1983, the number of awards was fixed at two per year: one in the arts, and one in the social sciences and humanities.

Eligibility and Nomination Process

Candidates must be nominated by either an individual or an organization. Only Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada are eligible, though they do not need to be residing in Canada. Eligible candidates must have made “a substantial and distinguished contribution over a significant period” and still be actively involved in their field. The prize is not a lifetime achievement or an “end of service” award; recipients are typically at the peak of an outstanding career.

The eligibility terms also stipulate that: a) no individual may be awarded the prize more than once; b) corporations and other organizations are not eligible; c) the prize cannot be awarded posthumously; and d) members of the board of the Canada Council or the SSHRC are not eligible until six months after the end of their term as board members.

Selection Process

The recipients are chosen by a peer assessment committee appointed jointly by the Canada Council and the SSHRC. Committee members are among the most accomplished individuals in their respective fields. New committees are formed for each competition. Committees are intended to provide fair representation of gender, generations, Canada’s two official languages, Indigenous peoples, the cultural and regional diversity of Canada, and various types of artistic and scholarly disciplines. The committee may decide not to award one or both of the awards in a given year, if it determines that there is not a sufficiently deserving candidate.


1964 — Donald Creighton, Alain Grandbois
1965 — Jean Gascon, Frank Scott
1966 — Georges-Henri Lévesque, Hugh MacLennan
1967 — Arthur Erickson, Anne Hébert, Marshall McLuhan
1968 — Glenn Gould, Jean Le Moyne
1969 — Jean-Paul Audet, Morley Callaghan, Arnold Spohr
1970 — Northrop Frye, Duncan MacPherson, Yves Thériault
1971 — Maureen Forrester, Rina Lasnier, Norman McLaren
1972 — John James Deutsch, Alfred Pellan, George Woodcock
1973 — W.A.C.H. Dobson, Celia Franca, Jean-Paul Lemieux
1974 — Alex Colville, Pierre Dansereau, Margaret Laurence
1975 — Orford String Quartet, Denise Pelletier, Jon Vickers
1976 — John Hirsch, Bill Reid, Jean-Louis Roux
1977 — Gabrielle Roy, Jack Shadboldt, George Story
1978 — Jean Duceppe, Betty Oliphant, Michael Snow
1979 — Michel Brault, Lois Marshall, Robert Weaver
1980 — Margaret Atwood, Marcel Trudel, John Weinzweig
1981 — not awarded
1982 — Alan C. Cairns, Louis-Edmond Hamelin, Jack McClelland, Gilles Vigneault
1983 — Brian Macdonald, Francess Halpenny
1984 — Marcel Dubé, James G. Eayrs
1985 — Gaston Miron, Ronald Melzack
1986 — J. Mavor Moore, William Dray
1987 — Yvette Brind'Amour, Marc-Adélard Tremblay
1988 — Robertson Davies, Terence Michael Penelhum
1989 — Vera Frenkel, Fernande Saint-Martin
1990 — Alice Munro, Jean-Jacques Nattiez
1991 — Denys Arcand, Charles Taylor
1992 — Douglas Cardinal, Fernand Dumont
1993 — R. Murray Schafer, Juliet McMaster
1994 — Michel Tremblay, Martin Friedland
1995 — Gerald Ferguson, Donald Akenson
1996 — Mavis Gallant, Pierre Maranda
1997 — Mary Pratt, Guy Rocher
1998 — Jeanne Lamon, Michael J. Trebilcock
1999 — Kiawak Ashoona, Tom Courchene
2000 — Jacques Poulin, Ian Hacking
2001 — not awarded
2002 — Christopher Newton, Margaret Lock
2003 — Walter Boudreau, Janice Gross Stein
2004 — Maria Campbell, Richard E. Tremblay
2005 — Iain Baxter, Ramsay Cook
2006 — Nicole Brossard, Henry Mintzberg
2007 — Alex Pauk, Paul Thagard
2008 — Sheila Fischman, Angus McLaren
2009 — Ian Wallace, Wayne Sumner
2010 — Édouard Lock, Linda Hutcheon
2011 — Herménégilde Chiasson, Peter Victor
2012 — Dáirine Ní Mheadhra, Keren Rice
2013 — Richard Wagamese, Ann Dale
2014 — Jean Grondin, John Arcand
2015 — M.G. Vassanji, Constance Backhouse
2016 — Marie-Claire Blais, John McGarry
2017 — Lawrence Hill, Kent Roach
2018 — Diane Schoemperlen, Lynne Viola
2019 — Alexina Louie, John Borrows
2020 — Mary Kerr, David Lyon
2021 — M. NourbeSe Philip, Gordon J. G. Asmundson