North

GG's Northern Medal replaced by new Polar Medal

The Canadian government is replacing the Governor General's Northern Medal, which recognized people who made contributions to Northern identity and culture, with a new 'Polar Medal' that will honour polar explorers and defenders of Canada's Northern sovereignty.

Annual honour will now include polar explorers and defenders of Northern sovereignty

Canada's new Polar Medal will bear an image of the St. Roch, the RCMP ship that patrolled the Arctic in early 20th century, and a portrait of the Queen. It will 'recognize those who have contributed to or endeavoured to promote a greater understanding of Canada's Northern communities and its people' and replace the Northern Medal. (Rideau Hall)

The Canadian government is replacing the Governor General's Northern Medal, which recognized people who made contributions to Northern identity and culture, with a new "Polar Medal" that will honour polar explorers and defenders of Canada's Northern sovereignty.

The Northern Medal was created in 2005 by former governor general Adrienne Clarkson and was awarded to "citizens whose actions and achievements contributed to the evolution and constant reaffirmation of the Canadian North as part of our national identity," according to the Rideau Hall website.

Tthe Governor General's Northern Medal, created in 2005 by former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, has been awarded to nine people over the past 10 years. It is being replaced by the Polar Medal. (Rideau Hall)

Nine people have been awarded the Northern Medal, eight of whom have been residents of N.W.T., Nunavut or Nunavik:

  • Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  • ​Nellie Cournoyea
  • ​Bertha Allen
  • Georges Henry Erasmus
  • Zacharias Kunuk
  • Mary Simon
  • Stephen Kakfwi
  • Louis Fortier
  • Tagak Curley 

The new Polar Medal "will recognize those who have contributed to or endeavoured to promote a greater understanding of Canada's Northern communities and its people," according to the website.

"It will also honour those individuals who have withstood the rigours of the polar climate to make significant contributions to polar exploration and knowledge, scientific research, and the securement of Canada's Northern sovereignty."

In a news release, Governor General David Johnston said the creation of the Polar Medal "emphasizes the importance that our country places on strengthening our understanding of and connection to the North.

"Recognizing the outstanding contributions made by those working and living there, which is not without challenges and risks, will make our Canadian Honours System more comprehensive and better able to celebrate the full breadth of Canadian achievement."

Where the Northern Medal's design depicted a snowy owl and the aurora borealis and the medal was set in a crystal base, the Polar Medal will bear 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.

The call for nominations for the new award will start in fall 2015.

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