Geographical Names Board of Canada Appoints a New Indigenous Advisor and Celebrates Its 125th Anniversary

News release

Rob Houle, First Nations Indigenous Advisor, Geographical Names Board of Canada
Rob Houle, First Nations Indigenous Advisor, Geographical Names Board of Canada

March 2, 2022                     Ottawa, Ontario                     Natural Resources Canada

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, announced yesterday the appointment of a new Indigenous Advisor to the Geographical Names Board of Canada as the Board celebrates its 125th anniversary.

Originally established in 1897, the Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC) serves as the national coordinating body responsible for official place names across Canada. For 125 years, geographical names have recorded and embedded a wealth of cultural and historical information about the people who inhabit or settled in a place or region.

The GNBC is composed of 29 members, including a Chairperson, with representatives from each provincial and territorial naming authority and several federal departments and agencies. Individual provinces and territories have jurisdiction to name geographical features such as lakes, rivers and mountains.

GNBC board members work collaboratively to research, standardize, approve, record and promote the official geographical names in Canada that describe the landscape and waterways, visible facets of the diverse Canadian heritage. Place names are critical to safety and navigation as well as cultural heritage. More specifically, recognizing Indigenous place names contributes to preserving and revitalizing Indigenous cultures, histories and languages and plays a vital role toward advancing reconciliation.

As a member of Swan River First Nation, Rob Houle of Kamloops, British Columbia, has been appointed as the new First Nations Indigenous Advisor to the GNBC for a two-year term ending in March 2024. 

He will serve as a full voting member of the GNBC and will actively contribute to the Board’s discussions and activities by:

  • Participating in working groups to address specific themes and projects related to geographical naming practices;

  • Providing culturally appropriate advice, perspectives and insight on historical, geographical, cultural and linguistic matters to aid the Board in developing enhanced policies;

  • Improving collaboration and ongoing relationships with Indigenous Nations and communities;

  • Assisting in the development of guidelines, principles and procedures regarding Indigenous place names and naming conventions; and

  • Promoting and representing the work of the GNBC.

Mr. Houle will be stepping into this new role, replacing Ava Hill, who served as the first person to hold the position of Indigenous Advisor to the GNBC between March 2021 and March 2022. The GNBC welcomes nominations for Inuit and Métis advisors.


“The anniversary of the Geographical Names Board of Canada is an opportunity to celebrate 125 years of recording and preserving the history, language, landscape knowledge and cultural heritage of Canada. It is also a time to look back on what has been accomplished and to reflect on our rich history. I would like to formally congratulate Rob Houle on his appointment as the new Indigenous Advisor, in which capacity he will continue the work in recognizing, preserving and strengthening Indigenous histories, languages and cultures in Canada.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Natural Resources 

“I am more than honoured to be joining the Geographical Names Board of Canada. Now is an opportune time for us to redefine who we are as a nation, and recapturing Indigenous names plays a huge role in that. By reconnecting and reminding each other of the true history of this land, we will grow closer not only as a people but also as a country. Only then, will we be fully embracing the journey to Reconciliation and respecting our shared heritage.”

Rob Houle
First Nations Indigenous Advisor to the Geographical Names Board of Canada 

Quick facts

  • Established in 1897, the Geographical Names Board of Canada is the national coordinating body responsible for official place names.

  • Natural Resources Canada provides pan-Canadian leadership and coordination for the GNBC through the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation.

  • Indigenous place names are specifically referred to in Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Associated links


Natural Resources Canada
Media Relations


Ian Cameron
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources


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