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The award was first presented in 1966 by the Canadian Film Awards, and was presented annually until 1978 with the exception of 1974 due to the cancellation of the awards that year. From 1980 until 2012, the award was presented as part of the Genie Awards ceremony; since 2013, it has been presented as part of the Canadian Screen Awards.
- Most wins: David Cronenberg is the most successful director in the award's history, with five wins. Denis Villeneuve has won four times, Denys Arcand has won three, and Bob Clark, François Girard, Ron Kelly, Gilles Carle, Atom Egoyan, and Xavier Dolan have each won the award twice. No other director has, to date, won the award more than once.
- Women: Five women — Micheline Lanctôt, Sandy Wilson, Sarah Polley, Aisling Walsh and Jasmin Mozaffari — have won the award to date. Overall, 31 women have received nominations for the award, of which five (Lanctôt, Wilson, Léa Pool, Anne Wheeler and Deepa Mehta) have been nominated multiple times.
- Claude Jutra Award: Three winning directors — Sarah Polley, Zacharias Kunuk and Robert Lepage — have also won the Claude Jutra Award, given to the year's best feature film by a first-time director, for the same films.
22nd Canadian Film Awards
|Paul Almond||The Act of the Heart|
23rd Canadian Film Awards
|Claude Jutra||Mon oncle Antoine|
24th Canadian Film Awards
|Gilles Carle||The True Nature of Bernadette (La Vraie Nature de Bernadette)|
25th Canadian Film Awards
|No award presented|
26th Canadian Film Awards
|Michel Brault||Orders (Les Ordres)|
27th Canadian Film Awards
28th Canadian Film Awards
|Jean Beaudin||J.A. Martin Photographer (J.A. Martin photographe)|
|Allan King||Who Has Seen the Wind|
|Silvio Narizzano||Why Shoot the Teacher?|
|Robin Spry||One Man|
29th Canadian Film Awards
|Daryl Duke||The Silent Partner|
|Paul Lynch||Blood and Guts|
|George Kaczender||In Praise of Older Women|
|Les Rose||Three Card Monte|