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Pop music hit-maker David Foster.Mark Blinch

Pop music hit-maker David Foster and playwright Tomson Highway are among the five Canadians to be honoured for their lifetime of work in the performing arts at the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards on May 28.

“The arts play a vital role in our lives, which has been made powerfully evident as we face great challenges during the pandemic,” said Douglas Knight, the chair and chief executive of the foundation that runs the awards.Added Simon Brault, the head of the Canada Council for the Arts, “Music, voices, words, dance and moving images help us stay connected to the world and to our own destiny.”

Playwright Tomson Highway.Sean Howard/Handout

For the 16-Grammy winner Foster, the honour is more formal recognition for a musician, composer, arranger and record producer who was named Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006 and presented with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2013.

“Wow, this is a big deal,” Foster said in a taped video statement. “When I was growing up in Victoria, B.C., as a little kid, I could have never imagined where my life and music would take me.”

Fernand Dansereau, a screenwriter, director and producer in Quebec film and television.Hélène Dansereau/Handout

Foster had a hand in hits such as Earth, Wind & Fire’s After the Love Has Gone, Chicago’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry, Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Toni Braxton’s Un-Break My Heart. Foster also co-produced and co-wrote the star-studded 1985 Canadian-made charity single Tears Are Not Enough. In 1985, he was named by Rolling Stone magazine as the master of “bombastic pop kitsch.”

Writer, classical pianist and lecturer Highway is the son of legendary caribou hunter and champion dogsled racer Joe Highway. His award-winning plays, including 1986′s The Rez Sisters and 1989′s Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, illuminate Indigenous people and culture.

In 1994, Highway was made a member of the Order of Canada. In 1998, Maclean’s magazine declared him one of the “100 most important people in Canadian history.”

Rita Shelton Deverell, a television broadcaster, theatre artist and activist.ACTRA/Handout

The three other 2022 winners of the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement are:

  • Linda Rabin, dancer, teacher and choreographer, whose works have been performed by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Batsheva Dance Company and the Nederlands Dans Theater 2
  • Fernand Dansereau, a screenwriter, director and producer in Quebec film and television who was a founding member of the National Film Board’s French Unit and whose 1982 dramatic feature Doux aveux earned four Genie Award nominations
  • Rita Shelton Deverell, a television broadcaster, theatre artist and activist who founded VisionTV, a pioneering multifaith, multicultural network.

Linda Rabin, dancer, teacher and choreographer.Tony Chong/Handout

In addition to the five lifetime achievement GGPAAs, two other awards were announced. The Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, named after the former governor-general of Canada, goes to Michelle Smith, a volunteer and fundraiser for many francophone community and arts organizations in her home province of Manitoba.

Michelle Smith, a volunteer and fundraiser for many francophone community and arts organizations in her home province of Manitoba.Marcel Druwé/Handout

Choreographer and dance director Crystal Pite is the winner of the National Arts Centre Award, which recognizes “work of an extraordinary nature” in the past performance year. Pite is the founding artistic director of the Vancouver-based company Kidd Pivot.

Choreographer and dance director Crystal Pite.Rolex Anoush Abrar/Handout

The 2022 laureates will be honoured at two events in Ottawa, culminating in the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala at the National Arts Centre on May 28. Tickets go on sale Thursday through the National Arts Centre box office and Ticketmaster.

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