The Polar Medal celebrates Canada’s northern heritage and recognizes persons who render extraordinary services in the polar regions and in Canada’s North.
As an official honour created by the Crown, the Polar Medal is part of the Canadian Honours System. The program incorporated and replaced the Governor General’s Northern Medal, created in 2005, by then-Governor General the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson.
The Chancellery of Honours, part of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, administers the Polar Medal program.
Eligibility criteria and nomination process
The Polar Medal recognizes those who have contributed to or endeavoured to promote a greater understanding of Canada’s northern communities and its people.
It also honours those individuals who have withstood the rigours of the polar climate to make significant contributions to polar exploration and knowledge, scientific research, and the securement of Canada’s northern sovereignty.
Any person or group can submit a nomination of a person who is eligible to be awarded the Polar Medal. Nominations are received by the Chancellery of Honours throughout the year and are reviewed by an advisory committee, which makes recommendations to the governor general. Completed nominations may be submitted either by email at email@example.com or by mail at Chancellery of Honours, Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A1.
Description of the medal
The Polar Medal consists of a silver octagonal medal that is 36 mm in diameter with a suspension bar adorned with a representation of the North Star, with limbs evoking strong winds, water currents and the aurora borealis.
The obverse depicts a contemporary effigy of the Sovereign, circumscribed with the inscription in capital letters of the Canadian Royal Title and the word “CANADA”, separated by two maple leaves. The edge of the obverse is decorated with small denticles. The reverse bears a representation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner St. Roch depicted in the Arctic near a tall iceberg and two crew members standing on the ice. The medal is suspended from a watered white ribbon that is 32 mm in width. Each subsequent award of the Medal to the same person will be indicated by a bar, which will be in silver with raised edges and bear a centred silver maple leaf.
The design of the Polar Medal was created by the Canadian Heraldic Authority, as part of the Chancellery of Honours, based on a concept by Major Carl Gauthier of the Directorate of Honours and Recognition section of the Department of National Defence. The medal is manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint at its Ottawa facility.
Governor General's Northern Medal (2005-2015)
Created in 2005 by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor General’s Northern Medal was a medallion awarded annually to citizens whose actions and achievements contributed to the evolution and constant reaffirmation of the Canadian North as part of our national identity. The program was replaced by the Polar Medal program in 2015.
Description of the medallion
The obverse depicts a snowy owl, which represents a watchful guardian spirit whose flight symbolizes many possibilities arising from movement in different directions. The whole North and the splendours of its unique natural phenomena are encompassed by the aurora borealis. A small Canadian Arctic diamond refers to the North Star. The aurora radiates around the diamond, illustrating the diverse possibilities and discoveries found in the region, and how they enrich us all in return. The crystal base recalls an iceberg, an icon of the power and beauty of the northern land and seascape. On the reverse, the words "Governor General’s Northern Medal / La Médaille du Gouverneur général pour la nordicité" appear with the name of the recipient.
The medallion was designed by Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald, at the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
Recipients of the Northern Medal:
- Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C., Iqaluit (Nunavut)
- Nellie Cournoyea, O.C., Inuvik (Northwest Territories)
- Bertha Allen, C.M., Inuvik (Northwest Territories)
- Georges Henry Erasmus, O.C., Yellowknife (Northwest Territories)
- Zacharias Kunuk, O.C., Igloolik (Nunavut)
- Mary J. May Simon, O.C., O.Q., Kangiqsualujjuaq (Quebec) and Ottawa (Ontario)
- Stephen Kakfwi, Yellowknife (Northwest Territories)
- Louis Fortier, O.C., O.Q., Québec (Quebec)
- Tagak Curley, C.M., Rankin Inlet (Nunavut)