Royal Canadian Geographical Society College of Fellows Annual Dinner


The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources


Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa
November 16, 2016

Good evening to all of you. I too want to acknowledge the territory that we’re on and the lessons that we have learned from all Indigenous peoples.

It is that sacred relationship with the land, the air and the water, passed on from seven generations to us, and the responsibility that we leave to those who come after, a planet that’s healthier than the one we inherited. To our dignitaries and distinguished guests, congratulations to the impressive and deserving individual medal recipients including those from Natural Resources Canada, and might I add, happy Geography Awareness Week.

Tonight, one Canadian icon — the Royal Canadian Geographical Society — honours another, with the awarding of its Gold Medal to the Geological Survey of Canada. I can think of no better tribute on the eve of the Survey’s 175th anniversary.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King famously said that Canada “has too much geography and not enough history.” But I’m not so sure he was right. 

Older than the Government of Canada itself, by a full quarter of a century, the Geological Survey of Canada is also steeped in history dating back to the exploits of its earlier explorers who tackled Canada’s frontier lands. There is a lot to appreciate in that history: groundbreaking inventories of our mineral and energy resources; seminal publications; world-class science.

This is the geological data we need to ensure economic growth — part of what some are calling the “geo-economy” that will help foster clean technology and innovation. Few might have predicted much of it, even when the incomparable William Logan was appointed the Survey’s first director. Back then, in 1842, Queen Victoria was a 22-year-old monarch, Abraham Lincoln was getting married, and the Doppler effect was just being proposed.

But today, the Survey is our leading authority on everything from mineral deposits and the impact of climate change to earthquakes, groundwater and space weather. It produced the landmark Geology of Canada publication and was the driving force behind our United Nations submission on Canada’s Atlantic continental shelf.

Many of our greatest geological breakthroughs started with the Survey’s remarkable and even daring men and women, such as Massey Medalist Fred Roots, who sadly passed away last month at the age of 93 — the much-heralded polar explorer whose passion for discovery placed him in the company of people like Neil Armstrong, Sir Edmund Hillary and Jane Goodall.

That is a great source of pride for me as the Minister of Natural Resources. In a department rich with leading-edge research and science, the Geological Survey of Canada still stands out as the crown jewel: our nation’s first scientific agency and one of our oldest government organizations.

Nor is it lost on me that my ministry office is located in the William Logan Building or that our main meeting hall is named after the famed Canadian geologist Charles Camsell. Geography shapes us. It can define who we are and what we become. The Geological Survey of Canada reflects that. It goes to the heart of what it means to be Canadian, pushing boundaries, expanding frontiers, promoting understanding.

In fact, some historians cite the GSC’s early mapping of our mineral resources as giving rise to Confederation itself by unearthing the key deposits upon which Canada would be built. That is the Survey’s legacy and its future. We are at a pivotal moment when climate change is among the great challenges of our time and when clean technology and innovation are today’s new imperatives. 

The Geological Survey of Canada is critical to meeting this challenge through its field research and scientific advancements; helping to develop our natural resources as it preserves our natural environment; protecting our public safety and our national sovereignty.

So let me thank the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Through your efforts, including the unrivalled Canadian Geographic, you are reaching millions of Canadians and showcasing our country’s impressive wealth of geological knowledge and history. As you know, next year is Canada’s 150th birthday, and the Government of Canada has been working tirelessly with our partners to ensure that 2017 is a year to remember.

Our vision for Canada 150 includes four major themes: diversity and inclusion; the environment; young people; and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

In the spirit of reconciliation, I am happy to learn that the Royal Canadian Geographic Society has been working on the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada Project. The project’s goal is to create physical and digital maps that demonstrate the many traditional Indigenous lands across the country. This would be an unprecedented project and perfect in the context of Canada 150.

And with that, let me conclude with tonight’s tribute.

This Gold Medal is a timely and fitting honour, one that recognizes the Survey’s 175 years of scientific excellence — celebrating its past contributions and anticipating its important work still to come. 

And so I would ask Dr. Daniel Lebel and Dr. Paul Ruest to join me on stage for the presentation.

Dr. Ruest is well known to you all, I am sure, as President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. And Dr. Lebel is Director General at the Geological Survey of Canada, Atlantic and Western Canada Branch.

Thank you very much Paul, and congratulations Daniel, and thank you to the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for this tremendous honour.

Thank you, and congratulations to all.

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