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Royal Canadian Geographical Society

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Arms of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Arms of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Abbreviation RCGS
Motto "Making Canada better known to Canadians and the world."
Formation Dr. Charles Camsell, 1929
Headquarters 1155 Lola Street, Ottawa, Canada
Dr. Paul Ruest (2013- )
Chief Executive Officer
John G. Geiger (2013- )
Main organ
College of Fellows
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society

(RCGS) (in Canada — its people and places, its natural and cultural heritage and its environmental, social and economic challenges.


  • History 1
  • Programs 2
  • Organizational structure 3
  • College of Fellows 4
    • Presidents 4.1
    • Notable Vice-Presidents 4.2
  • Awards 5
    • Gold Medal 5.1
      • Recipients 5.1.1
    • Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration 5.2
      • Recipients 5.2.1
    • 3M Environmental Innovation Award 5.3
      • Recipients 5.3.1
    • Camsell Medal 5.4
      • Recipients 5.4.1
    • The Martin Bergmann Medal for Excellence in Arctic Leadership and Science 5.5
      • Recipients 5.5.1
    • Lawrence J. Burpee Medal 5.6
      • Recipients 5.6.1
    • Massey Medal 5.7
      • Recent Recipients 5.7.1
    • Innovation in Geography Teaching Award 5.8
  • Canadian Geographic Education 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Royal Canadian Geographical Society was founded in 1929 by Charles Camsell and a group of eminent Canadians, including Marius Barbeau, an ethnographer and folklorist who is today considered a founder of Canadian anthropology, Hon. A.E. Arsenault, Premier of Prince Edward Island and Justice of the province's Supreme Court, Lawrence J. Burpee, Secretary for Canada, International Joint Commission, John Wesley Dafoe, Managing Editor, (Winnipeg) Free Press, Hon. Albert Hudson, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and Dr. O.D. Skelton, Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs.

The Rt. Hon. [2]

Among those who have addressed meetings of the RCGS over the years are Sir Francis Younghusband, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Maj. L. T. Burwash, Dr. Isaiah Bowman, Dr. Wade Davis, Michael Palin, Dr. Phil Currie, and Sir Christopher Ondaatje.

The RCGS publishes the award-winning English-language magazine, Canadian Geographic , which has been published continuously since 1930 (when it was called the Canadian Geographical Journal). The society also publishes Canadian Geographic Travel quarterly. The Society’s French-language magazine, Géographica, which is published in collaboration with La Presse, was introduced in 1997.

Alan Beddoe designed the arms for The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and his fonds includes a black and white photograph of the letters patent.[3]


The Royal Canadian Geographical Society helps fund education, expeditions, research and lectures programs. Notably, it was a partner in the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition that located HMS Erebus, one of two exploration vessels lost on the British Arctic Expedition commanded by Sir John Franklin.

Each fall, the Society hosts the annual College of Fellows Annual Dinner, with notable speakers including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston in the past.

Organizational structure

The Society's Board of Governors and its program committees are made up entirely of volunteers, many of whom are members of the College of Fellows. Traditionally, Fellows were elected "in recognition of outstanding service to Canada."[4] Past Fellows of the Society include such eminent names as the painter A.Y. Jackson, explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, mariner and explorer Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, journalist Agnes C. Laut, American businessman and explorer Fenley Hunter, Nobel Prize recipient Prof. F.G. Banting, Edward Shackleton, Baron Shackleton, geographer and son of Sir Ernest Shackleton, businessman James Armstrong Richardson Sr., former Conservative leader and Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield, explorer Henry Larsen, historian L'abbé Arthur Maheux, anthropologist Diamond Jenness, businessman E.P. Taylor, broadcaster and traveler Lowell Thomas, hotelier Conrad Hilton, and geographer and GIS originator Roger Tomlinson. Current Fellows include Gilbert M. Grosvenor, of the National Geographic Society, ethnobotanist Wade Davis, astronauts Steve MacLean, Jeremy Hansen and Jerry M. Linenger, and businessman and author Sir Christopher Ondaatje. Besides regular Fellows, the Society elects Honorary Fellows, people recognized for special or outstanding achievements. The President, and other members of the executive, are elected by the College of Fellows at the Society's annual general meeting.

To be elected a Fellow of the Society, someone must be proposed by existing Fellows, approved by the Fellows Committee and elected by the College of Fellows. Fellows are granted the right to use the initials "F.R.C.G.S." after their names.

The Governor General of Canada serves as the patron of the Society.[5]

Day-to-day operations of the Society, its programs and business, are overseen by its Chief Executive Officer.

College of Fellows

The first fellows were named in the years after 1929. The college elects the President and other members of the board of Governors, as well as new fellows. The fellows work determinedly to expand geographical knowledge across the nation. They also provide guidance and financial support, both of which are crucial to the non-profit organization.


  • 1930 — 1941: Dr. Charles Camsell, Geologist in Charge of Explorations for the Geological Survey of Canada, and Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. Oversaw the exploration of the uncharted parts of Canada's North — a vast area covering 1.4 million square kilometres or about 25 percent of the country.
  • 1941 — 1944: Dr. George J. Desbarats, Deputy Minister of Marine and Fisheries and of National Defence. He was the Canadian official who first learned that explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson was separated from his ship, and that the Karluk was missing in the Arctic ice.
  • 1944 — 1950: Mr. Charles C. Cowan
  • 1950 — 1955: Air Marshal Robert Leckie, an aviation pioneer and Chief of the Air Staff for the Royal Canadian Air Force. An outstanding fighter pilot during the First World War, he flew attacks on German Zeppelins, and downed two.
  • 1955 — 1963: Maj.-Gen. Hugh A. Young, commanded the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade at Normandy, and served as Deputy Minister of Public Works. Commissioner of the Northwest Territories from 1950-53. As head of the Advisory Committee on Northern Development, in 1953 he studied threats to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
  • 1963 — 1967: Dr. Omond Solandt, scientist and first Chairman of both Canada’s Defence Research Board and the Science Council of Canada. He was a scientific advisor to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, and later a member of the joint military mission sent to Japan to evaluate the effects of the atomic bomb.
  • 1967 — 1977: Dr. Pierre Camu, geographer and civil servant. Served as President of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, and later as Chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). He is co-founder of the Trans Canada Trail.
  • 1977 — 1986: Mr. Denis Coolican, served as president of the Canadian Bank Note Company.
  • 1986 — 1992: Dr. Alexander T. Davidson, geographer and civil servant. Served as chief of resources for the federal Department of Northern Affairs, and assistant deputy minister of rural development; water; policy, planning and research for Environment Canada; and Parks Canada. He also was Chairman of the federal Panel Concerning Low Level Military Flights in Labrador-Goose Bay.
  • 1992 — 1998: Dr. Denis A. St-Onge, geoscientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. Conducted pioneering research into the evolution of landscape under extreme cold climate on Ellef Ringnes Island in the High Arctic. He is credited with developing a unique method of mapping geomorphology.
  • 1998 — 2004: Dr. Arthur E. Collin, served as Scientific Advisor for the Maritime Forces (1965) and as the Dominion Hydrographer (1968). From 1971 to 1980 he served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Environment.
  • 2004 — 2010: Ms Gisèle Jacob, Director General with Environment Canada and Deputy Secretary General for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. She also served as chair of the Geographical Names Board of Canada.
  • 2010 — 2013: Mr. John G. Geiger, author of Frozen In Time: The Fate of The Franklin Expedition and other books, former head of the editorial board of The Globe and Mail, current Chief Executive Officer of the RCGS.
  • 2013 — Present: Dr. Paul Ruest

Notable Vice-Presidents


The Society awards the following awards:

Gold Medal

Recognizing a particular achievement by one or more individuals in the general field of geography or a significant national or international event. It was first awarded in 1972.


Source: RCGS

Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration

The Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration, named after Gold Medal and Camsell Medal recipient Sir Christopher Ondaatje, was established in 2013.


Source: RCGS

3M Environmental Innovation Award

The 3M Environmental Innovation Award was established in 2009 by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) and 3M Canada to recognize outstanding individuals in business, government, academia or community organizations whose innovative contributions to environmental change are benefiting Canada and Canadians.


Camsell Medal

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society awards the Camsell Medal to bestow recognition upon, and to express the Society's appreciation to, individuals who have given outstanding service to the Society. The award was established by the Society’s Board of Governors in 1992.


Source: RCGS

  • 2015: Bruce Amos and Louise Maffett
  • 2014: Christopher Burn and Iain Wallace
  • 2013: Sir Christopher Ondaatje
  • 2012: Jean Fournier
  • 2011: Gisèle Jacob and Arthur E. Collin
  • 2010: Pierre Bergeron and Helen Kerfoot
  • 2009: James Raffan and Ted Johnson
  • 2008: Kenneth Boland and Carman Joynt
  • 2007: Stuart Semple and Brian Osborne
  • 2006: Karen Lochhead and Michael Schmidt
  • 2005: James Maxwell and Denis St-Onge
  • 2004: Samuel P. Arsenault and Alexander T. Davidson
  • 2003: Blair Seaborn and David Kirkwood
  • 2002: Alan O. Gibbons
  • 2001: Dickson Mansfield
  • 2000: Winifred Wadasinghe-Wijay
  • 1999: Pierre Camu and Grete Hale
  • 1998: Pierre Des Marais II and Dr. George Hobson
  • 1997: Enid Byford and Robert Goddard
  • 1996: David Bartlett
  • 1995: William M. Gilchrist and Col. Louis M. Sebert
  • 1994: Wendy Simpson-Lewis
  • 1993: David W. Phillips and Dr. Ernest P. Weeks
  • 1992: Dr. J. Keith Fraser and Samuel F. Hughes

The Martin Bergmann Medal for Excellence in Arctic Leadership and Science

Established by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2012, the medal recognizes achievement for "excellence in Arctic leadership and science." It is named in honour of Martin "Marty" Bergmann, a public servant.


Source: RCGS

  • 2014: Donald Forbes
  • 2013: Dr. David Hik
  • 2012: Martin Bergmann

Lawrence J. Burpee Medal

Established by the society in 2013, this medal is awarded to recognize outstanding contribution to the general advancement of geography, or to other achievement that greatly enhances the ability of the society to fulfill its mission.


Source: RCGS

  • 2015: Wendy Cecil and Alex Trebek
  • 2014: Marc-André Bernier, Ryan Harris, Jonathan Moore and Andrew Campbell (Parks Canada)

Massey Medal

Recognizing outstanding personal achievement in the exploration, development or description of the geography of Canada. The award was established in 1959 by the Massey Foundation, named for industrialist Hart Massey.

Recent Recipients

Source: RCGS

  • 2015: Brian Osborne
  • 2014: Derald Smith
  • 2013: David Ley
  • 2012: Graeme Wynn
  • 2011: David Livingstone
  • 2010: Raymond Price
  • 2009: Michael Church
  • 2008: Bruce Mitchell
  • 2007: Eddy Carmack
  • 2006: Serge Courville
  • 2005: Tim Oke
  • 2004: Larry Stuart Bourne
  • 2003: Richard Colebrook Harris
  • 2002: John Oliver Wheeler
  • 2001: Lawrence McCann
  • 1999: Alexander T. Davidson
  • 1998: William C. Wonders
  • 1997: James A. Houston
  • 1996: James P. Bruce
  • 1995: Pierre Camu

Innovation in Geography Teaching Award

Canadian Geographic Education

Canadian Geographic Education — formerly the Canadian Council for Geographic Education (CCGE) — is a joint initiative of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the National Geographic Society of Washington, D.C. established in 1993. The programs of the Can Geo Education aim to strengthen geographic education in the classroom. In addition to increasing the emphasis on geography within the school system, the Can Geo Education endeavours to increase the public awareness of the importance of geographical literacy.

See also

  • List of Canadian organizations with royal patronage


  1. ^ Canadian Geographical Journal, Vol. I, No. I, May 1930
  2. ^ Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 23, p.376
  3. ^ "Alan B. Beddoe fonds". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Society Elects 27 Fellows", Globe and Mail, Jan. 20, 1956
  5. ^  

External links

  • The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
  • Canadian Geographic
  • Canadian Geographic Education
  • géographica
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