Inaugural Presentation Ceremony of the Polar Medal
Whitehorse, Yukon, Wednesday, July 8, 2015
This is a great day for Canada and for Canada’s North.
We’re gathered here in Whitehorse, my vice regal colleagues and I, for the inaugural presentation of the Polar Medal—an important addition to Canada’s honours system.
We’re gathered here to recognize some extraordinary individuals who’ve contributed to our northern communities and to our understanding of the polar regions.
This is important because, fundamentally, Canada is a northern nation, stretching from sea to sea to sea.
This vast part of our country, including the Canadian Arctic, is integral to our identity, our sovereignty, our global environment.
It’s part of who we are.
Indeed, a major portion of the Arctic goes by the name of Nunavut, meaning “our land” in Inuktitut.
Inuit, a founding people of Canada, have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years, and continue to do so today alongside other Canadians and northerners of diverse backgrounds.
This history of human settlement reminds us that, while the world is increasingly aware of the environmental, economic and strategic importance of the North and of the polar regions, this part of the country is above all home for thousands of people.
Canada’s North is only as strong as Canada’s northern communities.
Its greatest resource is its people, their ingenuity and their capacity to innovate and collaborate.
We’re fortunate to have so many talented, dedicated and knowledgeable people living and working in communities such as Whitehorse and throughout the North, helping each other and building our understanding and appreciation of this vast and vital part of Canada.
As well, Canadians from across the country have added to our knowledge of the North. Many people have worked hard to educate and enlighten people who don’t live in this region on the wonders and global importance of the Arctic.
It all adds up to an impressive record of achievement, right up to the present day.
The new Polar Medal exists to celebrate and encourage such achievement.
The Polar Medal recognizes those who have brought about a greater understanding of Canada’s northern communities and their people.
It also honours those individuals who have made significant contributions to polar exploration and knowledge, scientific research and Canadian sovereignty.
The Polar Medal incorporates and replaces the Northern Medal, which was introduced in 2005 by my predecessor, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson.
The Northern Medal was one of many governor general’s awards. And now, as an official honour approved by Her Majesty, the Polar Medal will form part of the Canadian Honours System.
The new medal will continue the legacy and spirit of the Northern Medal, while making the Canadian Honours System more comprehensive.
Each of you being recognized today is now part of history.
You are the first recipients of Canada’s Polar Medal.
You are here because of your remarkable efforts in a range of fields. You study geography and climate, reveal long-lost heritage, support culture and youth, champion the cadet program in the North and promote recreation and healthy living.
Your contributions are so important, and I thank you all for your efforts.
Congratulations on receiving this honour.
You are most deserving.