The Centre for All Canadians

Honourable Michael IgnatieffConfederation Centre of the Arts presented the Honourable Michael Ignatieff, PC, CM, with the Symons Medal.

Ignatieff is a writer, historian, and former politician. Born in Toronto, educated at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, he earned a PhD in history at Harvard in 1975. He taught history at the University of British Columbia and then was elected to a Senior Research Fellowship at King’s College Cambridge. Between 1984 and 2000, he worked as a freelance journalist for the BBC, The Observer, and other outlets in London. Between 2000 and 2005 he was director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 2006, serving as Deputy Leader and Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada between 2009 and 2011. He returned to academic life in 2011 and taught at the University of Toronto and Harvard’s Kennedy School until 2016. Between 2016 and 2021, he was Rector and President of Central European University (CEU) in Budapest and Vienna. He now teaches history at CEU in Vienna. He is the author of eighteen books and holds honorary degrees from fourteen universities as well as the Order of Canada.

Ignatieff’s lecture, Canada in the World: Hope, Optimism, and the Human Project, will discuss such issues as the climate crisis, artificial intelligence and nuclear war. The lecture asks how we revive hope in the human project as these issues raise the spectre of humanity’s end and explores whether Canada is meeting these challenges.


Held annually, The Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture on the State of Canadian Confederation provides a national platform for a distinguished Canadian to discuss the current state and future prospects of Confederation. It provides all Canadians an opportunity to reflect upon their country and its future. The Medal Ceremony and Lecture is held each fall in Charlottetown to mark the meetings of the Fathers of Confederation in September 1864.

The lecture honours Professor Thomas H.B. Symons, a long-time supporter and board member of the Confederation Centre for many years. Professor Symons, the founding President of Trent University in Ontario, is widely recognized for his work in the field of Canadian Studies, in particular in the areas of public policy, heritage and education.

The Symons Medal was designed by Dora de Pedery-Hunt, CM, OOnt (1913 – 2008). The famed Canadian sculptor was inspired by the Jean Paul Lemieux 1964 painting Charlottetown Revisited, which is held in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery permanent collection.

It is the mandate of Confederation Centre of the Arts, Canada’s national memorial to the founding of Confederation, to inspire Canadians to celebrate, through heritage and the arts, the founding, and evolution of Canadian Confederation. Confederation Centre fulfills this mandate in part by presenting Canadian leaders through public policy initiatives such as the Symons Medal  Presentation and Lecture series.

2023- Michael Ignatieff
Writer and Historian
2022- Shelagh Rogers
2021-The Honourable Louise Arbour
Former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights
2020-The Honourable Bob Rae
Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN)
2019-The Honourable Murray Sinclair, Senator
Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
2018-Dr. Margaret MacMillan
Historian and Author
2017-The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
2016-Antonine Maillet
Novelist and Playwright
2015-Paul Gross
Actor, Writer, Director
2014-His Royal Highness Prince Charles
Prince of Wales
2014-Stephen Lewis
Politician, Human Rights Activist
2013-The Right Honourable Paul Martin
Former Prime Minister
2012-Dr. David Suzuki
2011-Dr. Ivan Fellegi
Former Chief Statistician of Canada
2010-The Right Honourable David Johnston
Governor General of Canada
2009-Mary Simon
President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Inuit Organization
2008-The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin
Chief Justice of Canada
2008-Ian E. Wilson
Librarian and Archivist of Canada
2007-The Honourable John Crosbie
Chancellor, Memorial University
2007-The Honourable Peter Lougheed
Former Premier of Alberta
2006-Mark Starowicz
Producer and Journalist
2005-The Honourable Roy McMurtry
Chief Justice of Ontario
2004-The Honourable Jean Charest
Premier of Quebec
The Symons Trust Endowment Fund


The Symons Trust Endowment Fund was created in 1994 to help finance heritage programming, specifically The Symons Medal Presentation And Lecture. All donations to this fund are eligible for up to dollar for dollar matching through the Endowment Incentives component of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund. For more on our Foundation and to donate online please click here.

Professor Thomas H. B. Symons, C., OOnt, LLD, DU, DLitt, DCnL, FRSC, FRGS


Professor Symons passed away in January at the age of 91. “Tom” is widely recognized for his contributions in the areas of public policy, heritage, and education—dedicating his life to community and nation-building. This video is a celebration of Tom Symons and his long-standing relationship with the Island, including the Centre and Shaw’s Hotel in Brackley, which he visited annually for more than 70 years.

Produced by Confederation Centre of the Arts, 2021, featured interviews include the Honourable H. Frank Lewis, Catherine Hennessey, H. Wayne Hambly, Robert Sear, Robbie Shaw, and Steve Bellamy; as well as music from Charlene and Gordon Belsher and Atlantic String Machine. Read More…






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