People & Culture

Remembering former RCGS president Pierre Camu

Camu, who died Sept. 5, 2023 at the age of 100, served as president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for 10 years — part of a long and illustrious career in geography

  • Published Sep 29, 2023
  • Updated Oct 05
  • 324 words
  • 2 minutes
Past presidents of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society posed for a photo with the late Alex Trebek and then-president Gavin Fitch (third from right) at the official opening of the Society’s headquarters at 50 Sussex Drive in Ottawa on May 13, 2019. Left to right: Denis St-Onge, Paul Ruest, Alex Trebek, Gavin Fitch, Pierre Camu, John Geiger. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)
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His decade at the helm of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society was just one chapter in a storied career that saw Canadian geographer Pierre Camu teach future geographers at the University of Laval, lead the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and co-found a trail network that would ultimately connect Canada from coast to coast to coast. Camu passed away Sept. 5, 2023 at the age of 100. 

Born in Montreal on March 19, 1923, Camu earned his PhD in geography at the University of Montreal in 1947 and spent several years working for the geography branch of the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys in Ottawa before going on to teach at Laval University in Quebec City. In 1960, he became vice-president of the newly-opened St. Lawrence Seaway, then president in 1965, overseeing the management of the critical shipping route. A decade in telecommunications followed, and in 1976, he was awarded the Order of Canada for his contributions to the economic expansion of the country. During this time, Camu served as president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. 

As the 125th anniversary of Confederation approached, Camu and Bill Pratt, former chair of the Calgary Olympics, envisioned a cross-country trail that would connect all three of Canada’s coastlines, and in December 1992, Trans Canada Trail was established as a registered charity. Camu served as president of the Trail board throughout their early fundraising and trail connection efforts.

In 1995, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society awarded Camu its highest honour, the Massey Medal, in recognition of his scholarly work, particularly his research on the origins and development of maritime transportation in Canada. This was followed in 1999 by another accolade, the Camsell Medal, in recognition of his long service to the Society. Camu remained an Honorary Vice-President of the Society until his death.


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