Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life

Winner: $20,000
Sponsored by Marla and David Lehberg


2013 Winner

Jury Citation

Andrew Nikiforuk has been writing about key environmental issues for more than 20 years, since working as an editor at Equinox magazine in the 1980s. As a journalist and author of major investigative books, he cares deeply about accuracy, government accountability, and the cumulative impacts of policies that affect all citizens. He has won seven National Magazine Awards since 1989 and top honours for investigative writing from the Association of Canadian Journalists.

Andrew has published several highly acclaimed and influential books. The dramatic Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil won the Governor General's Award for Nonfiction in 2002. Pandemonium, about the impact of global trade on disease exchanges, received widespread national recognition. The Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of the Continent, which considers the global as well as the personal impact of the world’s largest energy project, was a national bestseller, won the 2009 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, and was listed as a finalist for the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment. Andrew's Empire of the Beetle, a startling look at the mountain pine beetle infestation in Western Canada and its role as the world’s most powerful landscape changer, was nominated for the Governor General’s award for Non-Fiction and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. And last year he published The Energy of Slaves, which was described by Maclean’s as “a profoundly moral case against the diminishing returns now offered by oil dependency.”

Selected Publications

Fourth Horseman: A Short History of Epidemics, Plagues, Famines & Other Scourges (1991)
School’s Out: The Catastrophe in Public Education and What We Can Do About It (1993)
Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil (2010)
Pandemonium: Bid Flu, Mad Cow Disease and Other Biological Plagues of the 21st Century(2008)
Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of the Continent (1989)
Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests (2011)
The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude (2012)

About the Author

For more than two decades Andrew Nikiforuk has written about energy, economics and the West for a variety of Canadian publications including The Walrus, Maclean’s, Canadian Business, The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, Chatelaine, Georgia Straight, Equinox, Harrowsmith, and The Tyee.

In the late 1990s, he investigated the social and ecological impacts of intensive livestock industries and the legacy of northern uranium mining for the Calgary Herald. His public policy position papers on water diversion in the Great Lakes and water, energy, and North American integration for the Program on Water Issues at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre sparked both discussion and reform.

Nikiforuk’s journalism has won seven National Magazine Awards since 1989 and top honours for investigative writing from the Association of Canadian Journalists.

Nikiforuk and his wife and three sons, Aidan, Keegan, and Torin, live in Calgary. Whether speaking or writing about melting glaciers, educational shams, peak oil, or the destruction of the boreal forest, Nikiforuk has earned a reputation as an honest and provocative voice in Canadian journalism.

About the Prize

Matt CohenEstablished by a group of anonymous donors, the Matt Cohen Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished work by a Canadian writer, working in either poetry or prose in either French or English. A founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, Mr. Cohen was a celebrated and prolific writer who died in 1999 at the age of 56.

The recipient of the prize is announced at the Writers' Trust Awards.

Gallant_Mavis.jpg “I look upon it as one of the greatest honours of my career, because it perpetuates the writing life of someone who was, I believe, nothing else than a writer.”  Mavis Gallant Winner, 2001 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life



Woodcock Fund



Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing


September 19 for books published between June 20 and September 18, 2018


Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize


July 18 for books published between May 16 and Sept 30, 2018


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