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John Vaillant Wins the 2024 Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

John Vaillant Wins the 2024 Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

The Writers’ Trust of Canada has awarded John Vaillant the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast (Knopf Canada). The award was presented by prize sponsor CN at Politics and the Pen, an annual fundraising event in support of Writers’ Trust of Canada’s literary prizes and programs.

Named after popular MP Shaughnessy Cohen (who passed away while serving in parliament in 1998), the vaunted prize is given each year to celebrate the finest political writing in the country.

The jury this year was made up of past winner Joanna Chiu, past finalist Dale Eisler, and former premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne. The jurors read 46 books submitted by 28 publishers.

Their citation for the winning book is as follows:

“Like a blazing inferno that commands our attention and awe, we cannot look away from Fire Weather. John Vaillant brings the devastating 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire to life by introducing us, almost affectionately, to the human beings on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry and the fire it produces that threatens us all. This is a deeply compelling, skillfully crafted story packed with information but completely free of ponderous lecturing. It is terrifying in its honest, textured description of what we have wrought in the name of progress, what we stand to lose, and where we might find the possibility of hope.”

John Vaillant is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction chronicling the natural world. His first book, The Golden Spruce, won the Pearson Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize and a Governor General’s Literary Award; his second book, The Tiger, won British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Nonfiction. His debut novel, The Jaguar’s Children, was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was longlisted for the international Dublin Literary Award. Vaillant is the recipient of a Windham-Campbell Literature Prize and was shortlisted for the 2023 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. He has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and The Walrus. Vaillant lives in Vancouver.

The four other finalists for the prize were each awarded $2,500.

The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing 2024 shortlist:

Rob Goodman for Not Here: Why American Democracy Is Eroding and How Canada Can Protect Itself (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Benjamin Perrin for Indictment: The Criminal Justice System on Trial published by (Aevo UTP)

Donald J. Savoie for Canada: Beyond Grudges, Grievances, and Disunity (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

Astra Taylor The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart (House of Anansi Press)


More about the Prize:

Now in its 24th year, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing is sponsored by CN and presented at the Politics and the Pen gala. The $25,000 prize is awarded annually for a book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life. The winning work combines compelling new insights with depth of research and is of significant literary merit. The prize particularly values books that provide the general reader with an informed, unique perspective on the practice of Canadian politics, its players, or its principles.

More about Writers’ Trust:

Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to support and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs including 12 literary awards, financial grants, career development initiatives for emerging writers, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers.

Learn about Canadian writers and writing at