A journey through life inspired by
—  a passion for writing and history
— a love of Canada and its northern wilderness
— and a deep appreciation for the Arctic and the Inuit


Shelagh Dawn Grant, R.N., M.A. (History) D.Litt., F.R.C.G.S.

Shelagh Dawn Grant passed away on Saturday, July 11th in her 83rd year from esophageal cancer. Predeceased by her father Donald Ian Adams and her mother Hazel Idona, she is survived by her spouse Jon, best friend and fellow traveller. She will be missed by her family, Susan Grant (Bob Fitzgerald), Debbie Aben (Mike), and David Grant (Cécile Gambin), and by her six grandchildren Chelsea, Michael, Alex, Sean, Sébastien and Luc.

Through her wise financial stewardship, Shelagh was a strong supporter of her grandchildren’s education. As they grew older, she arranged individual trips with each grandchild so that she and Jon could visit various parts of the world with them. Jon and Shelagh saw the world both professionally and personally, and as ardent canoeists, paddled many of Canada’s northern rivers. At the end of their journeys, home was in Peterborough. They also spent summers at their island retreat at Pointe au Baril in Georgian Bay, and extended periods in the winter at their log cabin on the Rivière Diable at Tremblant in Quebec.

Born in Montreal, Shelagh moved to Toronto before spending her high school years in Burlington, Ontario. While studying at university, with her father’s passing, Shelagh had independence thrusted upon her. She finished her degree in Nursing but her love of history drew her to Trent University after Jon joined Quaker Oats in Peterborough in 1974. Following an undergraduate degree in History, she went on to complete her Master’s Program, travelling to Toronto to add courses in the International Affairs Program at the University of Toronto.

Her first love was research and writing. As adjunct faculty in Canadian Studies, she was the research associate at Trent’s School for the Study of Canada. As one of Canada’s internationally acclaimed experts on the Arctic, Shelagh has given papers and lectures in the United States, United Kingdom (Oxford, London, and Aberdeen universities), Iceland, and Russia. She was active in volunteer activities as Director of Wildlife and Forest Issues with the Pointe au Baril Islander’s Association, and Chair of the Canadian Norther Studies Trust.

Her contribution to Canada was foremost through her writing. Four notable works that began with Sovereignty and Security – Government Policy in the Canadian North, Arctic Justice – On Trial for Murder Pond Inlet 1923, for which she received the CHA and Cleo awards Northern History, and her internationally acclaimed work was Polar Imperative – A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America. Polar Imperative was listed as a finalist for both the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing, and the Canadian Historical Association’s John A. Macdonald Award for best book on Canadian History. Polar Imperative was the winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize for the best English language book on global affairs, the J.W. Dafoe Book Prize for non fiction that contributes to the understanding of Canada and its place in the world, and the Canadian Authors Association Lela Common Award for Canadian history. Her personal work was a contributed book Mittimatalik – The History of Pond Inlet for community use translated into Inuktitut. As a result, the family were pleased to fund the Shelagh Grant Endowment in Canadian Studies at Trent University.

In 1997, Shelagh was the recipient of the Northern Science Award – the first woman historian to be awarded this medal. In 2011, she was appointed Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in 2012, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, in 2014, awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from Trent University, in 2015, awarded the Royal Canadian Geographical Society HMS Erebus Medal, and also awarded the Canadian Governor General’s Polar Medal. In 2017, Shelagh received the RCGS Bernier Medal.

In lieu of flowers, remembrance donations may be made to the Shelagh Grant Endowment in Canadian Studies at Trent University, 1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario, K9L 0G2. A recognition of Shelagh’s life will be held at a later date.


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