Cantley died Tuesday at a hospital in Oakville, Ont., after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last month, the awards organization said. He was executive secretary of the awards.
The organization praised Cantley's devotion to his craft, saying he had "an enormous impact on Canadian journalism" through the training sessions he organized as well as his role in the awards.
His work was recognized earlier this month when he received a Michener-Baxter Special Award for "continued commitment and outstanding service" to Canadian journalism and the newspaper industry.
"Bryan has a complete and total dedication to Canadian newspapers," said Scott White, chair of the National Newspaper Awards board of governors and editor-in-chief of The Canadian Press.
"He believed in news and the value it brought to a stronger democratic society. He saw tremendous changes in the newspaper industry during his career, but never lost sight of the need to strive for excellence in daily journalism."
A statement from the National Newspaper Awards said when Cantley retired in 2007, newspaper industry executives paid tribute to him at a gathering during the annual Newspapers Canada conference, with Clark Davey, a former publisher of newspapers in Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal and a former managing editor of the Globe and Mail, calling him “a great and giving repository of institutional memory about the black art we call journalism.”
Cantley's journalism career included working at the Etobicoke Gazette before joining the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association, now known as Newspapers Canada.
He went on to launch in 1999 the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors, which replaced the Canadian Managing Editors Conference and broadened its scope to include editors of all levels.
After retirement, Cantley remained at the helm of the National Newspaper Awards, but was unable to attend this year's gala in early May.
The organization said he remained involved from afar, adding that his guidance helped ensure the ceremony continued to highlight the best of Canadian journalism.
He organized the journalism training workshop Wordstock, which was hosted by his alma mater, Toronto's Ryerson University. Cantley was a founding member of the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association.
He also helped promote journalism training abroad as executive director of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, a position he held until last year.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version carried an incorrect age for Cantley and erroneously said he oversaw the National Newspaper Awards for 30 years.