Two NWT residents to receive Governor General’s Polar Medal

South Slave superintendent Curtis Brown and remote northern health expert Susan Chatwood are to receive the Governor General’s Polar Medal at a ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday.

The medal recognizes contributions to northern communities and our knowledge of Canada’s North.

Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will present the medals at Rideau Hall on Thursday morning.


Payette will also present an RCMP officer with a bravery medal for his part in rescuing residents from a burning Yellowknife apartment building in 2015, and recognize a Yellowknife man for his work creating the first school curriculum of its kind to include the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada.

Curtis Brown, superintendent of the South Slave Divisional Education Council, is receiving his Polar Medal after more than 30 years working in education in both the NWT and Nunavut.

“He strives to improve the state of education in Canada’s northern communities,” a summary of the award read on the Governor General’s website.

“Dr Brown’s efforts have stimulated the revitalization of local Indigenous languages and their use in schools and in the broader community.”

Chatwood, scientific director at the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research, receives the Polar Medal to recognize a career devoted to improving health services in remote, northern communities.


“Through her leadership and research initiatives, she has advanced public health policy to meet the specialized needs of people living in Canada’s North, while ensuring that Indigenous perspectives and traditional approaches are integrated into innovative healthcare practices,” the Governor General’s website stated.

The Polar Medal itself is a silver octagonal medal, 36 mm in diameter, with a suspension bar featuring a representation of the North Star alongside limbs “evoking strong winds, water currents and the aurora borealis,” according to the Governor General’s website.

Recipients “have provided outstanding service in support of scientific research and/or polar exploration relating to Canada or to Canadian interests,” the website continues.

Also on Thursday, RCMP Constable Shaun De Grandpré will receive the Medal of Bravery for his role in helping residents escape Yellowknife’s burning Polaris apartment complex on June 14, 2015.


De Grandpré worked with colleagues Ryan Gillis and Bryan Martell to help a number of residents to safety as the building was destroyed by fire. Gillis and Martell received their medals at an earlier ceremony.

And John Stewart is to receive the Meritorious Service Medal for his contribution to the development of the Northern Studies 10 course, which is a mandated graduation requirement for students in the Northwest Territories.

“To develop the course content, he formed the Northwest Territories Wise People’s Committee, comprised of Elders, residential school survivors, parents, politicians and curriculum writers,” the Governor General’s website stated.

“Through the program itself, students connect with Elders and community experts to learn about their unique northern identity.”