North

1st Polar Medals handed out in Whitehorse

The Governor General of Canada David Johnston will hand out the new Polar Medals to the first group of recipients today in Whitehorse. They include the team that discovered the shipwreck of the Franklin Expedition's HMS Erebus.

Recipients include team who discovered Franklin Expedition shipwreck

Gerry Kisoun of Inuvik, N.W.T., will receive the Polar Medal today for environmental work and coaching youth in Arctic sports. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, handed out the new Polar Medals to the first group of recipients Wednesday in Whitehorse.

The inaugural presentation ceremony of the newly created medals was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. PT at the MacBride Museum of Yukon History.

The Polar Medal has incorporated and replaced the Northern Medal, which recognized people who made contributions to the identity and culture of Canada's North. The new medal has added scientists, polar explorers and defenders of Canada's Northern sovereignty to the list of eligible recipients.

This year's recipients include the team that discovered the underwater shipwreck of the Franklin Expedition ship HMS Erebus last year near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut.

Community volunteers

Governor General of Canada David Johnston will hand out the new Polar Medals today at the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
The new medal still recognizes community volunteers, including Inuvik's Gerry Kisoun, who is being recognized for environmental work and coaching youth in Arctic sports.

"It is a small circle," Kisoun says of the award's recipients. "Another one was my mother, Bertha Allen, Sheila Watt Cloutier... by golly, those are pretty high end names, and to be standing in that circle is pretty neat really."

It also recognizes Second Lieutenant Dorothy Tootoo, who has been sustaining the cadet program in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. 

Scientist thrilled

Another recipient is Marianne Douglas, who has been a professor at University of Alberta and University of Toronto, and now lives in Yukon. 

'It's a huge surprise and a great honour,' says Marianne Douglas. (submitted by Marianne Douglas)
She has more than 25 years of experience doing field work in remote regions of the Arctic — often for weeks at a time. 

"It's a huge surprise and a great honour to be picked out. I can think of a large group of people who are equally or more deserving of this medal," she says. 

"My mind is like, 'Why me?' I'll have an enormous smile on my face. The North is an incredible place and it's been a privilege to be working here."

More medals to be awarded

Only nine Northern Medals had been distributed in ten years. 

Annabelle Cloutier, with the Governor General's office, says the new medal will be awarded more frequently to encourage people to nominate community members and keep the award in the public eye.

"We know there is a lot of work being done in all territories and up to the Arctic region by many people who deserve this recognition," she said. 

​The 10 recipients are:

  • Michel Allard, Quebec City (scientist)
  • Marianne Douglas, Whitehorse (scientist)
  • John Geiger, Ottawa (Royal Canadian Geographic Society)
  • Ryan Harris, Ottawa (archeologist)
  • Louie Kamookak, Gjoa Haven, Nunavut (historian)
  • Doug Stenton, Iqaluit (Nunavut director of heritage)
  • Shelagh Grant, Peterborough, Ont. (Nunavut historian)
  • Gerald Kisoun, Inuvik, N.W.T. (elder, volunteer)
  • Anne Morgan, Whitehorse (health advocate)
  • Dorothy Tootoo, Rankin Inlet (cadet leader)

The medal bears an image of the St. Roch, the RCMP ship that patrolled the Arctic in the early to mid-20th century, with a portrait of the Queen on the other side.

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