A Brief History of Excellence Canada

Established in 1992 through start-up funding provided by the Government of Canada, Excellence Canada was formed as a not-for-profit partnership between the Government and leading private sector organizations.

There was strong evidence at that time that Canada was losing competitive ground internationally. A national commitment to quality was needed in order to refocus and energize the private sector to move to a quality-based, globally-competitive, economy.

Excellence Canada quickly set about its work and established the Canadian Framework for Business Excellence in conjunction with Industry Canada and quality experts across Canada. The Framework provides Criteria for best practices that can help Canadian organizations to achieve world-class performance.

At the same time, Excellence Canada assumed responsibility for the Canada Awards for Excellence. The awards were originally established in 1984 by Industry Canada as the Canadian Business Excellence Awards. Today, both the Framework and the Canada Awards for Excellence programs have become sought-after hallmarks for those seeking recognition as leaders in organizational excellence. The scope of both the Canada Awards for Excellence and the Framework was also extended to the public and the not-for-profit sectors.

More recently, Excellence Canada has undertaken pioneering work through development of its Excellence, Innovation and Wellness Standard, its Healthy Workplace® Standard, and its Mental Health at Work® Framework. All of these innovations are drawing rave reviews from professionals involved in both the domestic and international “business excellence” field.


In the Beginning: 1984-1991

  • In 1984 the Canadian Government established the Canadian Business Excellence Awards through the Department of Industry Canada which it adjudicated for the first eight years
  • 84 Awards presented in 8 Years


The First Ten Years: 1992-2001

  • In 1992, Industry Canada established National Quality Institute as a not-for-profit corporation (NQI), now called Excellence Canada
  • NQI became the custodian and adjudicator of the national awards program, supported by Government for the first five years
  • Business Excellence Awards evolved to become Canada Awards for Excellence (CAE) and then included public sector recognition
  • Launched the Canadian Quality Framework and Criteria in 1995 as a new standard for organizational performance on par with other countries around the world
  • NQI carried on operations as an independent not-for-profit when Government funding ended in 1997
  • NQI moved to Toronto from Ottawa in 1998
  • Membership model was created to attract funding for the continued work of NQI
  • Progressive Excellence Program (NQI PEP®) was created in 1999
  • Healthy Workplace®  Framework and Criteria were launched in 1999
  • Canada’s Healthy Workplace Week®  was launched as a free on-line resource in 2001
  • 112 Awards presented in 10 Years



The Second Ten Years: 2002-2011

  • Developed Excellence, Innovation and Wellness as a Standard for Canada and as an advanced integrated management system
  • Developed the Mental Health at Work® Framework and Award
  • Launched a revised Healthy Workplace®  Standard
  • Launched Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month® (formerly a Week) every October
  • Launched the Certified Excellence Professional® (CEP) Program for credentialing individuals
  • Rebranded National Quality Institute to Excellence Canada to better reflect its mission and its scope of standards and services
  • Expanded the Annual Excellence Summit and Canada Awards for Excellence Gala to over 500 attendees
  • Governor General of Canada became the Patron of the Canada Awards for Excellence in 2006
  • Expanded training curriculum and distance learning was added to meet changing needs
  • 162 Awards presented in 10 years


From 2012 - 2015

  • Excellence Canada relocated from Etobicoke to downtown Toronto in 2013
  • Increased awareness and certified greater numbers of organizations through Canada Awards for Excellence Program
  • Expanded and updated all Canada Awards for Excellence  Standards and Frameworks to include current research, management experience, and most effective practices of successful organizations
  • Created a new focus helping small and medium businesses by introducing the Essentials one-year certification programs in Excellence, Healthy Workplace, and Mental Health at Work
  • Launched the Excellence Canada National Awards for Small and Medium Businesses
  • Developed tools for implementing Quality, Innovation, Employee Wellness, Mental Health, Accessibility, and Diversity
  • Produced white papers in the series of Thought Leaders Round Tables to maintain current perspectives on top leadership concerns
  • Celebrated 30 years of Canada Awards for Excellence (2014), 20 years of Excellence Canada (2012), and 15 years of Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month (2015)
  • Expanded the Annual Excellence Summit and Canada Awards for Excellence Gala to over 600 attendees
  • 90 Awards presented in 4 years