Decision-making process

The Canada Council for the Arts is committed to transparency, integrity and full accountability in its funding decisions, with peer assessment at the heart of its decision-making processes.

The annual budget allocations for granting programs are guided by the current strategic plan.

Our decision-making process, priorities, and funding principles are the cornerstones of our operations.

The three steps of the decision-making process

Peer assessment is the basis for the majority of the Canada Council’s funding decisions. Some applications are internally assessed when artistic merit is not the primary criterion (e. g., Travel, Professional Development, and Access Support).


Assessment and ranking

Peer assessment committees are composed of a diverse range of artists and arts professionals. In general, they:

  • Evaluate and compare eligible applications against program criteria and objectives.
  • Discuss the relative merit of the application.
  • Score each application against the assessment criteria.

Program staff calculate the scores for each assessment criteria and confirm the final ranking of the applications with peer assessment committee members. The final ranking is a list of applications in order of merit and it is signed by all committee members. This ranking order forms the basis of Council’s granting decisions.

While all applications are evaluated and scored by the peer assessment committee members, in the case of project grants, committees may perform a preliminary assessment to determine which applications will be discussed. Based on the ranking, peer assessment committee members also determine which applications are “unsuccessful”.

Successful applications receive a grant. Unsuccessful applications do not score highly enough to receive a grant.

For core grants, once the applications have been discussed, scored and ranked, the peer assessment committee members also determine if the organization is in a green (recommended for funding or an increase), yellow (maintain existing funding) or red (grant decrease, Major Warning) zone. Due to budget limitations, not all organizations in the green zone will receive an increase.


Determining grant amounts

Program staff, including the Program Officer and the Director, determine the amounts awarded to successful applicants.

They follow the ranking order established by the peers and they take into consideration:

  • eligible expenses and any peer comments about the applicant’s budget
  • the amount requested by the applicant (a grant cannot exceed the amount requested)
  • the budget allocation for the program, as determined by the Council’s budget

In addition to the base program budget, the Council has provisions set aside to fund strategic priority areas such as new recipients and designated equity priority groups (culturally diverse, Deaf and disability, Indigenous and official language minority communities).

Applicants from the designated equity priority groups must self-identify to be considered for these funds. Strategic provisions may be used to award a grant or an increase. The ranking order of applications established by the peer assessment committee is respected when awarding these funds.

Before making a final recommendation or decision, the Program Director examines granting recommendations across all disciplines and all competitions in the same program. In the case of core funding, recommendations are reviewed in consultation with the Director General of Arts Granting Programs.



As Canada’s public arts funding agency, the Council is accountable for the allocation of public funds.

The Council follows its Delegation of Authority policy:

  • Program Directors approve grants of $100,000 or less.
  • The Director General of Arts Granting Programs approves grants between $100,001 and $500,000.
  • The Board approves grants above $500,000.


Funding decisions of the Canada Council for the Arts are final. Decisions cannot be appealed unless evidence suggests that a procedural error may have occurred during the assessment process.

Decision reversal

The Council retains the right to cancel any grant previously awarded. The Council may initiate a process to review and potentially reverse a grant decision where there are serious concerns about the recipient or the funded activities. Examples of serious concerns include failure to meet the terms and conditions of the grant, failure to comply with legal obligations, and misrepresentation and risk of insolvency.

Feedback on individual grant application results

Canada Council staff continue to help and support applicants who are preparing new grant applications.

However, the Council has shifted away from providing individualized feedback on past applications in an effort to continue to meet its service standards for the processing and assessment of applications, and to focus on helping applicants with their future applications. Program staff will no longer discuss past applications.

Read more about assessment and awarding processes

Transparency and accountability

Selecting peers

The Canada Council engages artists and arts professionals for its peer assessment committees. Peer committee members are selected for diversity of:

  • professional specialization;
  • artistic practice;
  • demographics (age, gender, ethnicity); and
  • region.

Program Officers compose committees with appropriate knowledge and expertise based on the applications received, with final approval by the Director of the program.

Proactive Disclosure: Committee Members, Grant Recipients and Funding Allocation

The Canada Council publishes quarterly the names of the peer assessors who served on a committee.

The Council provides information on all grants and prizes it awards. Its searchable online database is updated four times a year.

The Stats and Stories webpage presents a breadth of information about the Canada Council’s investments including breakdowns of funding, five-year trends, open data tables and stories about what artists, groups and arts organizations did with their grants.

How Can I Serve as a Peer Assessor?

Artists and arts professionals that are interested in being peer assessors are asked to self-nominate using the portal. The steps are as follows:


Register to the portal

Open an account in the portal and register as an applicant, a peer assessor or both. You will be asked to provide information about your field of practice and expertise and submit a c.v.


Get nominated

You may subsequently be called upon by Canada Council staff to serve on a peer assessment committee based on your qualifications and areas of knowledge. Not everyone who self-nominates is asked to participate in committees.


Get recognized

Names of peer assessment committee members are made public four times per year.