Senator Don Oliver Black Voices Prize

One prize ($5,000 cash) is awarded each year to an emerging writer working in any genre of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry whose work-in-progress shows promise and career-advancing merit.

Eligible writers are those who identify as a Black and/or African Nova Scotian.

Introduced in 2023, this Senator Don Oliver Black Voices Prize provides the recipient with time and space as they complete, revise and edit, and/or submit work for publication.

The endowment for the prize was established by the Honorable Don Oliver (CM, ONS, KC) and through the generous support of BMO Financial Group.

The writer eligibility for this prize recognizes the barriers to literary creation and recognition faced by Black and African Nova Scotian writers, who have been and still are marginalized by systemic inequality, including within Canadian publishing.

The Senator Don Oliver Black Voices Prize facilitates the recipient’s literary endeavors for 5 months—the January through May following the submission deadline.

Literary activities during the prize period may include drafting new writing, revising existing writing, contracting and working with an editor, submitting writing for publication, undertaking creative mentorships or professional training, and other relevant activities.

A Black lawyer from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, the Honorable Dr. Donald “Don” Oliver has devoted his life to being a powerful advocate for minorities and breaking down systemic racial barriers to advancement. Don practiced law for 25 years in civil litigation, became a senior partner at Stewart McKelvie Stirling and Scales, and was chair of several committees of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.

Don has been a committed community volunteer, serving as chairman, president, director, or head of more than 25 charitable institutions, including the Halifax Children’s Aid Society, Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, Halifax Hearing and Speech Clinic, Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, Neptune Theatre Foundation, Junior Achievement of Halifax, Halifax-Dartmouth United Appeal, and Black United Front. He was also the founding chairman of the Black Cultural Society.

In 1990, Don Oliver became the first Black man in Canadian history to be summoned to the Senate of Canada and, later, the first to be elected unanimously as Speaker Pro Tempore of that institution. While there, he served with distinction as chairman of six standing committees, including Fisheries, Rules, Transport, National Finance, and Legal and Constitutional.

Don’s principle contribution to the community for more than 50 years has been as a human rights activist and catalyst, fearlessly breaking down barriers of racism and intolerance and promoting principles of pluralism, diversity, and inclusion in both public and private sectors.

In 2021, Don published his autobiography, A Matter of Equality: The Life’s Work of Senator Don Oliver (Nimbus Publishing), detailing his life as a Black man growing up in the only Black family in Wolfville, as an outspoken social activist, and as one who roots out the systemic racism that has stalled the growth of Canada’s Black citizens.

For his community work in promoting human rights, Don Oliver has received five honorary doctorate degrees (from Guelph, York, Dalhousie, St. Mary’s, and Acadia universities) as well as plaques, honours, and medals from 12 Canadian organizations (including the Harry Jerome Award for community service and the Distinguished Men of Honour Award from the Black Business and Professional Association of Toronto). He was presented with the Governor General’s Commemorative 125th Anniversary Medal, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee and Golden Jubilee Medals, the Canada 150 Medal for unselfish service to Community and Countr,y and the Order of Canada for his untiring efforts as a senator, educator, and civic-minded community member who promotes inclusion and diversity in Canada.

Don now serves on the board of the Black North Initiative, a national organization calling on large corporations and governments to sign a pledge to fight to end systemic black racism in Canada.. He is also a businessman and tree farmer.

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia thanks the Honorable Don Oliver, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, and BMO Financial Group for contributions to the endowment for the Senator Don Oliver Black Voices Prize.

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that each workshop’s participants share a level or range of writing / publication experience. This is to ensure that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their current writing priorities.

To this end, the “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions developed by WFNS:

  • New writers: those with no professional publications (yet!) or a few short professional publications (i.e., poems, stories, or essays in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with numerous professional publications and/or one book-length publication.
  • Established writers/authors: those with two book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short publications.
  • Professional authors: those with more than two book-length publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for participant-to-participant feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed.

For all other workshops, the recommended experience level is just that—a recommendation—and we encourage potential participants to follow their own judgment when registering.

If you’re uncertain of your experience level with regard to any particular workshop, please feel free to contact us at