The Centre for All Canadians

Confederation Centre of the Arts announces Michael Ignatieff as 2023 Symons Medallist

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May 30, 2023 – One of Canada’s most esteemed academics will be awarded the 2023 Symons Medal by Confederation Centre of the Arts in November, just before the launch of the inaugural Charlottetown Forum.

The Centre announced that the Honourable Michael Ignatieff, PC, CM, will be the 23rd recipient of the prestigious honour. The Symons Medal recognizes an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to Canadian life. Held annually, 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.

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 selection committee enthusiastically chose to award Michael Ignatieff with the Symons Medal this year,” says Robert Sear, chair of the board of Confederation Centre of the Arts, and co-chair of the Symons Medal Committee. “He is a vocal advocate of democracy, and his rich career has made an impact both in Canada and around the world.”

The Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture is named after Professor Thomas H.B. Symons, the founding president of Trent University and a long-time board member and supporter of Confederation Centre of the Arts. Since 2004, the Centre has honoured 22 distinguished medallists, including Shelagh Rogers, Dr. David Suzuki, the Honourable Bob Rae, and Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon.

This year, the Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture will kick off the newly established Charlottetown Forum – an event that enables artists, leaders, and the public to convene for discussions on matters of importance to Canadians.

“The Charlottetown Forum seeks to promote open learning and sharing of diverse perspectives from various disciplines about the evolving identity of Canada,” says the Centre’s CEO Steve Bellamy. “The Forum is part of the Centre’s wider revitalization plan, which includes leading new spaces for the creation of art, cultural learning, and public discourse.”

The Charlottetown Forum will gather in the two days following the Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture. Forum topics for 2023 include: Newcomers, Immigration, and the Needs of a Rapidly Changing National Community; Economic Reconciliation; and Shared National Narratives in a Fractured Time.

The Symons Medal Presentation and Lecture will take place at Confederation Centre of the Arts on Wednesday, November 8, and the Charlottetown Forum will be held Thursday, November 9 – Friday, November 10. Forum panellists and ticketing information will be announced at a later date.

For more information about the Symons Medal, visit

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Photo cutline: Michael Ignatieff has been named the 2023 Symons Medallist at Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Media Contact: Emily McMahon, Communications Manager, Confederation Centre of the Arts
[email protected] | 902-628-6135

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