Majority Support Teaching More Arctic Content in Schools: Poll

Apr 25, 2012, 09:45 ET from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation

Dr. Louis Fortier awarded $50,000 prize for Lifetime Achievement at International Polar Year Conference

TORONTO and MONTREAL, April 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - Against the backdrop of a new survey that reveals an overwhelming majority (94 percent) of Canadians agree that students should learn more about Canada's arctic resources and the role of northern science, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has announced that Dr. Louis Fortier has been awarded the $50,000 Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research for his work focused on the impacts of climate change on the Arctic. The results of the survey, commissioned by The Churchill Northern Studies Centre with the support of the Foundation, along with the prize winner were announced today at the International Polar Year Conference in Montréal.

"Dr. Fortier embodies what a lifetime of research can achieve," says Michael Goodyear, Executive Director, Churchill Northern Studies Centre. "By actively engaging northerners in the early planning stages of ArcticNet and through his dedication to the multidisciplinary use of the Canadian Research Icebreaker Amundsen, Dr. Fortier has helped ensure that arctic science not only remains top of mind for Canadians, but also serves the people of the North."

Canadians also support the ongoing work of researchers in the North. The poll shows that 80 per cent of Canadians agree that "northern research can help make informed decisions about the potential impacts of developmental progress in the North."

"My work reflects the ongoing collaboration and open dialogue on key arctic issues with colleagues around the world, Inuit partners, the private sector, and policy makers in several Federal departments. Together we have been able to explore, document, and synthesize the impacts of climate change and modernization on all aspects of the Arctic world, including the human dimension," said Dr. Louis Fortier, who is the Canada Research Chair on the Response of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change and a Professor at Université Laval since 1989. "The Weston Family Prize truly reflects a lifetime of national and international networking in many disciplines, and I'm thrilled to receive this honour."

Northern Researchers Important to Canadians
The survey also reveals that Canadians are keen to provide a refuge for northern species: nine out of 10 respondents support wildlife reserves for northern animals and plant species.

"Canadians overwhelmingly tell us that northern research is critical to appreciating the importance of the Arctic. Knowledge and discovery about the north should be a fundamental part of our Canadian identity," said Christian Bauta, member of the Northern Committee and a director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. "One of the primary goals of the Foundation is to advance the natural sciences in Canada's North, which could not be accomplished without the achievements of researchers like Dr. Fortier."

Wildlife Remains a Priority
Asked how they would like to spend a day as a northern researcher, Canadians prefer to spend time with animals: one third (35 percent) say they would like to observe marine life such as whales and seals, while another third (31 percent) say they would follow the polar bears. The final third was almost split evenly between gathering samples of unique plant life (15 percent) and following the migration of northern birds (13 percent).

Recognizing Arctic Research
The Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research was created to honour leading northern researchers who have increased our understanding of Canada's northern environment, and significantly contributed to better understanding of the physical and biological environments, ecosystems, demographics of the North, and the effects of climate change. This annual prize, administered by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS), is adjudicated by a committee of northern scholars, chaired by the President of ACUNS.

Since 2007, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has worked with ACUNS to offer awards to Masters and PhD students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership in northern science research. To-date, the Foundation has granted over $2.5 million in support of northern science and research scholarship, with much of the research taking place at stations such as the CNSC.

About the Survey
The survey results are based on a telephone survey conducted by Research House with a nationally representative random sample of 1,000 adults 18 years or older between February 21 - 24, 2012.  A sample of this size produces a margin of sampling error plus or minus 3.10 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is a private Canadian family foundation, established in the 1950's by Willard Garfield Weston and his wife Reta. For three generations, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has maintained a family tradition of supporting charitable organizations across Canada. Today the Foundation directs the majority of its funds to projects in the fields of land conservation, education, and science in Canada's North.

About Churchill Northern Studies Centre
Founded in 1976, the Churchill Northern Studies Centre is an independent, non-profit research and education facility located 23 km east of the town of Churchill, Manitoba. In addition to research, the Centre facilitates a wide range of educational programming ranging from general interest courses for the visiting public to university credit courses for students.

For over thirty years the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) has successfully promoted the advancement of northern scholarship through its mandate and programs. Established in 1978, ACUNS is a registered charitable organization operating with an office in Ottawa, and active volunteer representatives at over 40 member institutions across the country.

(Photo to Follow)

SOURCE The W. Garfield Weston Foundation