People & Culture

Geographic education award renamed in honour of Gilles Gagnier

The inaugural Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geographic Education will be presented to an outstanding educator this fall

  • Published Sep 24, 2021
  • Updated Mar 09, 2022
  • 477 words
  • 2 minutes
Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geographic Education Expand Image

An award honouring leadership in geographic education has been renamed in memory of one of its biggest champions. 

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s Innovation in Geography Teaching Award will now be called the Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geographic Education to honour the former chief operating officer of the Society and publisher of Canadian Geographic, who passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 10 at the age of 51. 

Gagnier served the Society in numerous capacities over the course of 21 years, but had a particular passion for geographic education. He was a driving force behind the landmark Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada and Can Geo Education’s incredibly popular giant floor map program, and played a leading role in fostering a recent collaboration between Canadian Geographic and the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan to support Michif language education. 

The new medal was unveiled at an intimate gathering of Gagnier’s family, friends and colleagues at Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration in Ottawa on Sept. 23. In a tribute read aloud by Society governor Janis Peleshok at the gathering, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper recalled Gagnier’s professional energy, passion for adventure and love of Canada.

“His work introduced the magic of the Canadian wilderness to thousands of students from coast to coast through groundbreaking educational resources,” Harper wrote. Furthermore, in an age when skepticism of the media is at an all-time high, Canadian Geographic has continued to engage and grow its audience through thoughtful, fact-based storytelling in print and online. 

“[Gagnier’s] efforts contributed greatly to the culture of Canada,” wrote Harper. “Gilles made our national identity relevant for millions of people.”

John Geiger, CEO of the Society, said no matter how ambitious the idea or project, Gagnier’s mantra was “let’s get it done,” whether it was collaborating with a vast array of partners and contributors from across Canada to produce the Indigenous atlas or securing the building at 50 Sussex Drive in Ottawa to serve as the Society’s headquarters. 

“Gilles was such an important part of who we are,” said Geiger. “This [medal] is just one way we as a Society will continue to remember his incredible contributions.” 

Notable guests who attended the memorial gathering for Gagnier included former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, who performed a blessing and smudged a ceremonial blanket that was presented to Gagnier’s family. 

The Gilles Gagnier Medal for Innovation in Geography Education recognizes an inspirational educator who is committed to advancing geographic literacy through innovative teaching and learning strategies. The inaugural award will be presented this November at the Society’s virtual College of Fellows Annual Dinner.


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Canadian Geographic publisher Gilles Gagnier

People & Culture

In memory of Gilles Gagnier

The publisher of Canadian Geographic and COO (and Fellow) of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society passed away suddenly at the age of 51

  • 478 words
  • 2 minutes

People & Culture

Royal Canadian Geographical Society Awards 2020

Award recipients honoured in the first virtual Annual General Meeting and Fellows Show.

  • 2630 words
  • 11 minutes
Gilles Gagnier is the new publisher of Canadian Geographic

People & Culture

New publisher, familiar face

Back in 2000, when he was hired to oversee Canadian Geographic and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s budding websites, Gilles Gagnier could never have guessed…

  • 321 words
  • 2 minutes
rcgs awards ceremony

People & Culture

Presenting the 2019 RCGS award winners

In celebration of its 90th year, the RCGS handed out awards to a diverse and star-studded roster of honourees

  • 2464 words
  • 10 minutes