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For three years, Donald Sutherland introduced the winners at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. He'll soon be on the receiving end.

"It's a wonderful thing," Sutherland said Thursday, after he was named a 2000 winner with such others as singer Stompin' Tom Connors and theatre director Christopher Newton.

Sutherland said as an actor, it's exciting to create a role but he expects "the same thrill" when he gets the award Nov. 3 in Ottawa from Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson.

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"When you work as a performer, you always have a piece of yourself committed to it," said Sutherland, a strong nationalist who was born 66 years ago in Saint John.

"I love this country."

Sutherland, whose films range from JFK to Fellini's Casanova to his current release, Space Cowboys, quipped he may try singing at the ceremony with Connors.

"That's a threat," he said, chuckling at the idea of forming a vocal team at the Ottawa occasion with Connors, the voice of Bud the Spud and Sudbury Saturday Night.

Other awards go to choreographer Fernand Nault, Toronto-born opera star Teresa Stratas and Quebec writer-broadcaster Janette Bertrand. Newton has been artistic director since 1979 of the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

The awards are to honour Canadian performing artists who enriched the country's culture.

All recipients receive $15,000 and a commemorative medallion.

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Bertrand, best known as a TV and radio show host, said she began writing for TV 50 years ago, the second year that the medium arrived in Quebec.

"I never stopped," Bertrand said. "I've written 52 TV films and I've got a theatrical play opening in Montreal soon. I've also just written a movie. We're waiting for the financing."

Nault, born in Montreal in 1921, created Les Grands ballets canadiens version of The Nutcracker, which the troupe has presented every year since 1964.

The Cirque du Soleil circus troupe will receive the National Arts Centre Award for its "exceptional achievement over the past performance season" and its role as a cultural ambassador for Canada.

"Our artists make life richer for all of us," Clarkson said in a statement. "They make us laugh and cry and sing. We know what joy is because they make every moment meaningful for us when we watch or hear them.

"They are our source of celebration."

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Also honoured this year is Walter Carsen, a philanthropist who has supported the National Ballet of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario. He is this year's recipient of the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Volunteerism in the Performing Arts.

The awards, which are in their ninth year, were announced by the Governor-General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. The foundation is a non-governmental, not-for-profit, charitable organization that administers the awards.

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