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Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture

Awarded annually since 2004, the Symons Medal recognizes an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to Canadian life.  The medal presentation and its associated lecture offer a national platform for an eminent Canadian to discuss the nation’s current state, shared histories, and prospects using themes related to their professional pursuits.

The lecture honours Professor Thomas H.B. Symons, a long-time supporter and board member of Confederation Centre of the Arts. 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 (1913 – 2008). The famed Canadian sculptor was inspired by the Jean Paul Lemieux 1964 painting Charlottetown Revisited, which is held in the permanent collection at Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

2023 Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture

Confederation Centre of the Arts presented the Honourable Michael Ignatieff, PC, CM, with the Symons Medal on November 8, 2023.

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.

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.

Past Symons Medal Recipients

Shelagh Rogers


Veteran broadcast-journalist at CBC, most recently as the host and producer of The Next Chapter

The Honourable Louise Arbour

Former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights

The Honourable Bob Rae

Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN)

Senator Murray Sinclair

Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Dr. Margaret MacMillan

Historian and Author

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada

Antonine Maillet

Novelist and Playwright

Paul Gross

Actor, Writer, Director

His Royal Highness Prince Charles

Prince of Wales

Stephen Lewis

Politician, Human Rights Activist

The Right Honourable Paul Martin

Former Prime Minister

Dr. David Suzuki


Dr. Ivan Fellegi

Former Chief Statistician of Canada

The Right Honourable David Johnston

Governor General of Canada

Mary Simon

President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Inuit Organization

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin

Chief Justice of Canada

Ian E. Wilson

Librarian and Archivist of Canada

The Honourable John Crosbie

Chancellor, Memorial University

The Honourable Peter Lougheed

Former Premier of Alberta

Mark Starowicz

Producer and Journalist

The Honourable Roy McMurtry

Chief Justice of Ontario

The Honourable Jean Charest

Premier of Quebec

“Confederation Centre for the Arts has always been a place of inspiration and connection. A lively venue for the sharing of our stories, historical, and contemporary, and imagined. A place where we can come together to talk about who we are, where we’re at, and how we will create a brilliant future. Where we rejoice in the arts and in dialogue that will make us think, talk with each other, listen to each other and celebrate culture in all its forms.”

Shelagh Rogers | Journalist and Symons Medal Recipient

Professor Thomas H. B. Symons, CC, OONT, LLD, DU, DLITT, DCNL, FRSC, FRGS

Professor Symons passed away in January 2001 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, the video features interviews including 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.

Learn more about Heritage Programming

Contact Francesca Perez, Director of Arts Education and Heritage
902-629-1178 or [email protected]