To recognize outstanding achievement, The Royal Canadian Geographical Society annually presents a number of medals and awards to deserving individuals.
The Society welcomes nominations from the public. Nominations for the Massey Medal, the Gold Medal and the Martin Bergmann Medal are reviewed by the Awards Committee, the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration nominations are reviewed by the Expedition Committee, while the Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy and the Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geographic Education are managed by Canadian Geographic Education.
The Massey Medal was established to honour those who have contributed to the exploration, development or description of Canada’s geography.
2023 recipient: Dr. Ellsworth LeDrew
Awarded to Dr. Ellsworth LeDrew, geographer, climatologist and remote sensing specialist. Dr. LeDrew has made major contributions to the understanding of the changing climate in the Arctic and has spearheaded an Arctic data management system that is available to both scientists and citizens.
2022 recipient: John H. England
Awarded to Professor Emeritus John H. England (University of Alberta), a distinguished scientist for his contributions to environmental change in the Arctic region from the last Ice Age to the current period.
The Gold Medal was created to provide an opportunity for the Society to recognize a particular achievement by one or more individuals in the general field of geography; or a significant national or international event.
2023 recipient: Chief Wilton Littlechild
Awarded to Chief Wilton Littlechild, a Canadian lawyer and former Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and Member of Parliament, for his lifelong dedication to advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world.
2023 recipient (awarded in 2010): James Cameron
Presented to James Cameron, Canadian filmmaker and undersea explorer, for his achievements in ocean exploration.
2022 recipient: Dr. Joseph MacInnis
Awarded to Dr. Joseph MacInnis, a physician and scientist who has developed innovative diving systems used to explore the world’s oceans.
2022 recipient: Mark Pathy
Awarded to Mark Pathy, a businessman, philanthropist and astronaut for his generous support for Society programming.
2022 recipient: Joshua Kutryk
Awarded to Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian astronaut, RCAF lieutenant colonel, and engineer for his contributions to exploration and Canada’s space program.
Martin Bergmann Medal
The Martin Bergmann Medal, established in 2012, recognizes achievement for excellence in Arctic leadership.
2023 recipient: Dr. Jackie Dawson
Awarded to Dr. Jackie Dawson, professor in Human and Policy Dimensions of Climate Change at the University of Ottawa, for her outstanding contributions to northern research and visionary leadership on Arctic policy.
2022 recipient: Christopher Burn
Awarded to Dr. Christopher Burn, a professor at Carleton University, for his leadership in long-term permafrost investigations in the Canadian Arctic, as well as mentorship of young scientists and community partnerships with northern communities and organizations.
Lawrence J. Burpee Medal
Awarded to recognize an outstanding contribution or other achievement that greatly enhances the ability of the Society to fulfill its mission of making Canada better known on a national or international level, and/or contributes to the general advancement of geography.
2023 recipient: David McKay
Awarded to David McKay, President and CEO of RBC.
2023 recipient: Paul Nicklen
Awarded to Paul Nicklen, Canadian photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist.
The Camsell Medal recognizes outstanding volunteer service to The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Only RCGS Fellows may nominate individuals for the Camsell Medal.
2023 recipient: Anthony Hendrie
Awarded to Anthony Hendrie for his generous contributions to and ongoing support of the Society and its programs.
2023 recipient: Mary Jane Starr
Awarded to Mary Jane Starr for her leadership in geographic education, support of programs and mentorship of the Canadian Geographic Education team
2022 recipient: Lynn Moorman
Awarded to Lynn Moorman, a professor at Mount Royal University, for her dedication to the Society in the roles of Governor and Can Geo Education Executive, and creating learning resources used in educational outreach.
2022 recipient: Gavin Fitch
Awarded to Gavin Fitch for his service to the Society as Governor, Vice President and two-term President, in addition to serving as a member on a number of committees.
Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration
Established in 2013, the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration recognizes singular achievements and the pursuit of excellence by an outstanding Canadian explorer or a non-Canadian for exploratory achievements within Canada.
2023 recipient: Ray Zahab
Awarded to Ray Zahab, Canadian long-distance runner and public speaker, and RCGS Explorer-in-Residence.
2022 recipient: John Baldwin
Awarded to John Baldwin, a ski pioneer who has explored and documented the landscape of the Coast Mountains of B.C., increasing international awareness of the area through his writing.
Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal
The Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal, established in 2014, recognizes an exemplary deed or activity that has enhanced or aided the Society in fulfilling its mandate at the international, national, provincial or headquarters level.
2023 recipient: Loreena McKennitt
Awarded to Loreena McKennitt, Canadian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and Honorary Colonel with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
2023 recipient: Alfred McLaren
Awarded to Alfred McLaren, retired Captain of the US Navy and former President of the Explorers Club.
Louie Kamookak Medal
The Louie Kamookak Medal: A distinction named for the Inuit historian and educator, 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.
2023 recipient: Roy MacGregor
Awarded to Roy MacGregor, author, columnist and feature writer for the Globe and Mail.
2023 recipient: Ruth Abernethy
Awarded to Ruth Abernethy, Canadian sculptor.
2023 recipient: Linda Tollas
Awarded to Linda Tollas, a passionate educator, heritage interpreter and ambassador of Haida culture.
2023 recipient: Diana Beresford-Kroeger
Awarded to Diana Beresford-Kroeger, renowned biochemist, botanist and bestselling author.
2022 recipient: Antoine Normandin
Awarded to Antoine Normandin, a geographer who has been an active member of the Fellows Committee and instrumental in maintaining up-to-date information on the Fellows of the Society.
2022 recipient: David Kajganich
Awarded to David Kajganich, an American screenwriter, for his work on The Terror, a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition of 1845-1848.
2022 recipient: Russell Potter
Awarded to Russell Potter, a Franklin expedition scholar and author of two books on the subject.
2022 recipient: Geir Kløver
Awarded to Geir Kløver, an expert on Norwegian polar history and director of the Fram Museum in Oslo.
2022 recipient: Adam Shoalts
Awarded to Adam Shoalts, bestselling author and Westaway Explorer-in-Residence with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
2022 recipient: Alanna Mitchell
Awarded to Alanna Mitchell, a science journalist, playwright and contributing editor to Canadian Geographic.
Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy
Many people work beyond the expectation of their professions toward heightening geographic literacy. This award is to recognize and honour their contributions.
2023 recipient: Esri Canada K-12 Education Group
Awarded to the Esri Canada K-12 Education Group (Jean Tong, Arabelle Sauvé, Susie Saliola, and Angela Alexander), an education and research group that develops teaching and learning resources to promote spatial understanding at all levels of Canadian education.
2022 recipients: David Hik and Zac Robinson
Awarded to Hik, a professor at Simon Fraser Univeristy, and Robinson, a professor the the University of Alberta, for the development and teaching of the highly rated Massive Open Online Course entitled Mountains 101.
Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geographic Education
Previously called the Innovation in Geography Teaching Award, this award honours the memory of Canadian Geographic publisher and COO Gilles Gagnier, who passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 10, 2021. The award recognizes an inspirational educator who is committed to advancing geographic literacy through innovative teaching and learning strategies.
2023 recipient: Wade Leonard
Awarded to Wade Leonard, a geography and science teacher who developed and implemented the curriculum for “Introduction to Spatial Technologies” using drone technology in the ‘Above and Beyond’ course.
2022 recipient: Sarah Gallah
Awarded to Sarah Gallah, a secondary school teacher in Toronto, for her advancement of geographic literacy through innovative techniques, including coding, to address climate change issues.
Awards committee members
John Iacozza (Chair), Dianne Draper, Chris McCreery, Wayne Pollard
Education committee members
Paul VanZant (Chair), Michel Emery, Ewan Geddes, Christy Harrick, Paula Huddy-Zubkowski, Jennifer Leduc, Lise Martin-Keilty, Kelley McClinchey, Janet Ruest, Anne Smith, John Thompson, Connie Wyatt Anderson
Expedition committee members
Zac Robinson (Chair), TA Loeffler (Vice-Chair), John Pollack (Past Chair), Jean-Marie Beaulieu, Lisel Currie, Jill Heinerth, Priidu Juurand, Helen Sovdat