• Photo: Bonnie Findley

Geography was on the map in Gatineau, Que., for The Royal Canadian Geographical Society's annual College of Fellows Dinner.

More than 400 explorers, educators and general geography enthusiasts turned out for the Nov. 13 event at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

The evening began with an awards ceremony where Governor General David Johnston spoke about his love of the Canadian landscape and character. “It's Canada itself that has shaped how we've grown as a nation,” he said.

Johnston then presented eight RCGS awards. Among the recipients were Robert Bateman, the dinner’s keynote speaker, who received the Gold Medal for achievements in geography, and Jill Heinerth, who was awarded the inaugural Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration for her accomplishments as an underwater cave explorer, photographer and filmmaker.

During dinner in the museum’s Grand Hall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen Harper took the stage to accept a Honourary Fellowship from John Geiger, chief executive officer and a Fellow of the RCGS. Laureen Harper, an avid hiker, spoke of making it her mission to get Canadians to travel more within their own country. “I wish that Canadians would choose camping in Gros Morne National Park instead of Yosemite, Algonquin Park instead of Central Park,” she said to a round of applause.

Harper’s speech was followed by Bateman’s keynote address, which he began by asking the crowd to close their eyes. “I want you to think of a place, a place that means a lot to you,” he said. “Now, I bet you that place had to do with nature.”

He went on to speak about the importance of teaching children to love nature. “This is what we’re going to be trying to do: reintroduce kids to a sense of place, to pay attention to where they are,” he said. “To slow down and take time to come to love their place.”