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The Royal Canadian Geographical Society awards 16 medals to outstanding individuals

Press Release

OTTAWA, ON, Nov. 18, 2022 – Today, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is celebrating 16 individuals who truly exemplify the Society’s mandate to “make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world.” To recognize outstanding achievement in the fields of geography, education, science and exploration, and for volunteering to assist the Society, a number of awards have been given to individuals who have made a special impact in 2022.

This year’s medal recipients are:

Massey Medal – John England
Dr. John England, Professor Emeritus, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, has dedicated his distinguished career to the paleogeography of Arctic Canada. Through decades of fieldwork in the company of students from the north as well as the south, Dr. England has documented past ice sheets, sea level change, and variations in sea ice and ocean currents in the Arctic Archipelago. His extraordinary research record, from the Ice Age to the present, has positioned high level environmental change in an essential and critical long-term perspective. By undertaking the natural resource inventory and lobbying the federal government, Dr. England made a material contribution to the establishment of Canada’s most northern national park, Quttinirpaaq.

Gold Medal – The Right Honourable J-J. Jean Chrétien, PC, OM, CC, QC
A long-serving and distinguished Parliamentarian, Jean Chrétien served in a range of portfolios from Justice and Indian Affairs and Northern Development to Treasury Board and Finance, before becoming Prime Minister. His longevity in the federal government broadened and deepened his knowledge of the country – its geography, its institutions and, most importantly, its citizens. He contributed to the furtherance of Canadian democracy through his seminal roles in the patriation of the Canadian Constitution, and in the adoption of the Clarity Act.

Gold Medal – Joshua Kutryk
Canadian astronaut Joshua Kutryk combines his lifelong passion to explore with his long-standing ambition to harness science and technology in the advancement of human spaceflight. Lieutenant Colonel Kutryk, a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot and experimental test pilot, has earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, as well as master’s degrees in space studies, flight test engineering, and defense studies. His many honours and awards attest to his high-level performance and achievements throughout his career. As a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, Colonel Kutryk appreciates the critical importance of teamwork to successful space exploration while, at the same time, keenly engaging in individual pursuits as a climber, mountaineer, backcountry skier, cyclist and paraglider.

Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration – John Baldwin
John Baldwin is a ski pioneer who has explored the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for more than 40 years. He has skied, climbed and hiked tens of thousands of kilometres, summited countless mountains, and sought to convey the beauty and majesty of this relatively unexplored place. His guidebooks, custom topographic route maps, and prestige publications of stunning photography and evocative writing have opened the wilderness to ski explorers and mountain adventurers while at the same time showcasing mountain culture to a much broader audience. Through his writing, photography, cartography and lived experience of environmentally responsible exploration, John Baldwin has cemented his reputation as an iconic mountaineer.

Martin Bergmann Medal – Christopher Robert Burn
Christopher Burn, Chancellor’s Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University is a passionate champion for Northerners and northern science. His inspiring leadership in teaching children and training young scientists is enhanced by his profound respect for Indigenous Northerners and their traditional knowledge. Two of his most notable achievements are his exemplary contributions to the establishment of the Northern Studies Program at Carleton University, and to the Memorandum of Understanding between the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun and Carleton University to collaborate on multi-disciplinary research projects.

Louie Kamookak medallists

Named for the late Inuit historian and educator, the Kamookak medal is awarded by the Society to any person or organization which has been brought to the attention of the Executive Committee, Awards Committee, or to the CEO, as having made Canada’s geography better known to Canadians and to the world. It is also awarded for a noteworthy deed that has served to advance the discipline of geography.

Adam Shoalts
Adam Shoalts is the author of four bestselling books on Canadian history and his own expeditions into the wilderness. This summer, he undertook yet another epic journey, travelling by canoe from Long Point on Lake Erie to Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik while tracing bird migration routes. As Westaway Explorer-in-Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Shoalts embodies our mandate to make Canada better known to Canadians and the world. His books, talks, and stories in the pages of Canadian Geographic have inspired tens of thousands of people to learn more about the geography and history of Canada.

David Kajganich
David Kajganich is an American screenwriter. His work on The Terror, a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition of 1845-1848, brought the stories of an iconic expedition to Arctic Canada to a global audience in a way that truly captured the zeitgeist of Franklin’s time: a fascination with — and fear of — the unknown.

Alanna Mitchell
Alanna Mitchell is an award-winning science journalist, author and playwright who has tackled some of the most complex and fascinating topics of our time, from changes in the global ocean to the Earth’s magnetic field. She has performed her acclaimed play, Sea Sick, based on her book of the same name, around the world, including at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Her longform writing regularly appears in the pages of Canadian Geographic, where she is a contributing editor, and she has also served as a host and moderator for a number of Society events.

Geir Kløver
Geir Klover is the managing director of the globally-renowned Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway, which honours Norwegian polar exploration. Under his leadership, the museum has undertaken the incredible task of translating the available diaries of all of the major Norwegian polar explorers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Since its publication in 2018, the museum’s landmark English translation of Roald Amundsen’s Northwest Passage diaries has become an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand how Amundsen succeeded where so many failed. Kløver was instrumental in bringing Amundsen’s story to Ottawa audiences through the exhibit Lessons from the Arctic, hosted at the RCGS headquarters, 50 Sussex, in 2018.

Antoine Normandin
Antoine Normandin is a geographer and an active member of the Society’s Fellows Committee. As vice-chair of that committee, he has been instrumental in maintaining up-to-date information on the Fellows of the Society, dedicating countless hours to writing software and making several thousand manual data entries. He has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the Society’s efforts to reach Francophone audiences, writing the editor’s note for “Le Meilleur de Géographica,” a special French-language compilation of Canadian Geographic stories published in 2021.

Russell Potter
Russell Potter is one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of Arctic exploration, with a particular focus on the lost Franklin Expedition. His 2016 book Finding Franklin introduced a new generation to an enduring mystery, and his latest work, May We Be Spared to Meet on Earth, fills a tremendous gap in our understanding of the expedition, compiling, for the first time, all the known letters to and from Franklin’s men into a single powerful volume. As editor of the Arctic Book Review, he highlights scholarly and literary works focused on the history, people, landscapes and wildlife of this fascinating and important region.

Camsell medallists

Named in honour of the Society’s founder, the Camsell Medal recognizes outstanding volunteer service to the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Lynn Moorman
Lynn Moorman is a professor of geography at Mount Royal University in Calgary. In the more than 10 years she has been a Fellow, she has continuously served the Society in a variety of roles, including two terms as Governor. As a longstanding member of the Canadian Geographic Education Executive, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that the RCGS has a dynamic and valued presence in the K-12 and university systems. Among her many accomplishments, she was instrumental in ensuring that Canadian post-secondary students had the opportunity to compete in the International Geography Olympiad, which they have done successfully since 2018. She participated in development of the Canadian Geography Framework, and has contributed to countless learning resources, maps, research publications and public events.

Gavin Fitch
Through thousands of volunteer hours across several important roles, Gavin Fitch has helped the Royal Canadian Geographical Society chart a course for success, in the present — and in the future. He has served as a Governor, Vice-President and two-term President, and been a member of numerous committees. Under his board chairmanship, the Society took possession of its stunning headquarters at 50 Sussex Drive — a beautiful space for great minds to meet. It was also under his chairmanship that the Society posted its first, second and third best fiscal performances, critical to the sustainable economic future of the Society and its work. Moreover, under Gavin’s leadership, the Society launched a major partnership with the National Geographic Society, resulting in the Trebek Initiative, the largest granting program in the organization’s history.

Education Medallists

Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geographic Education – Sarah Gallah
Sarah Gallah is a science and geography teacher at St. Michael’s Choir Secondary School in Toronto and the founder of edtechforchange.com, an online platform that encourages educators and students to learn new technologies and pursue research questions while increasing awareness of social, scientific, and geographic issues. By sharing her own journey of learning how to code, and highlighting how technology can mitigate the effects of climate change, Sarah has not only inspired students to learn how to code, but also shown young women a pathway to careers in computer science. Sarah has an extraordinary ability to creatively combine topics, ideas and technologies in the classroom, inspiring her students and colleagues to adopt an explorer’s mindset, investigate problems, and imagine real-world solutions.

Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy – David Hik and Zac Robinson
David Hik and Zac Robinson are both distinguished professors. Hik is an ecologist, presently seconded as the Chief Scientist at Polar Knowledge Canada, and Robinson is a historian who last year ascended Mount Logan to repeat historical photographs documenting climatic change atop Canada’s highest peak. Their highly successful undergraduate course at the University of Alberta, “Mountain Studies,” inspired them to create a free, online version that would be open to all, and in January 2017, Hik and Robinson launched Mountains 101, a Massive Open Online Course. Offering a complete introduction to the alpine world, from geology and glaciology, to biodiversity and climate, literature and history, all with a special emphasis on geography, stewardship, and conservation, the course has become, in the words of one student reviewer, “the gold standard” for accessible online learning.

ABOUT THE ROYAL CANADIAN GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY
Publisher of Canadian Geographic, the RCGS is dedicated to imparting a broader knowledge and deeper appreciation of Canada — its people and places, its natural and cultural heritage and its environmental, social and economic opportunities. The Society is one of Canada’s largest non-profit educational organizations, comprising more than 25,000 members from across the country. The RCGS is funded primarily by donations. The Society’s Board of Governors and its program committees are composed entirely of volunteers.

For further information: Media information: Keegan Hoban, Communications Coordinator, Royal Canadian Geographical Society, [email protected], (877) 786-1376 ext. 138

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