CPAWS Conservation Award

The CPAWS Conservation Award, previously known as the J. B. Harkin Award, honours individuals whose significant or exceptional life-long, or one-time, contribution to conservation is also considered lasting and achieved in a way that respects the sovereignty and leadership of Indigenous nations.

In its 60th anniversary year, CPAWS launched the newly renamed CPAWS Conservation Award. The first award under the new name was presented to the 2023 recipient at CPAWS’s 60th anniversary celebration in Ottawa in November.

Learn more about the 2023 relaunch of the CPAWS Conservation Award and CPAWS’ decision to rebrand the J. B. Harkin Award in acknowledgement of Harkin’s history with Indigenous Peoples and in support of reconciliation.

Thomas R. Berger, recipient of 2023 Conservation Award

Thomas Berger’s environmental work spanned more than four decades. In 1971, he served as the lawyer representing the Nisga’a Nation in Calder v British Columbia (AG), the definitive case that established the existence of Land Title in Canada. He then led the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry (also known as the Berger Inquiry) in the north of Canada and Alaska. Berger spent months travelling to remote northern communities to ensure he heard every First Nations, Inupiat and Inuvialuit voice who would be impacted by the construction of a pipeline.

In 1981, while sitting as a judge in British Columbia, he authored an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail that asserted that the rights of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and women needed to be included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was reprimanded for his actions and resigned as a judge. Later, Berger successfully represented the Yukon Conservation Society, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and CPAWS Yukon in a case to uphold the rights of Yukon First Nations and protect the Peel Watershed. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada and was ultimately successful – upholding modern treaties in the Yukon and paving the way for the protection of 54,000Km2 in the north-east of the Yukon. In one of his final cases, he represented the Province of British Columbia to challenge Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Read the media release.

Past Award Recipients

  • 2023, Thomas R. Berger
  • 2018, Cliff White
  • 2014, David Henry
  • 2013, Ric Careless, Harvey Locke, and John Marsh
  • 2011, Nikita Lopoukhine
  • 2010, The Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks (Louis Belanger, Jacques Gerin, Luise Hermanutz, Michael Hughes, Henry Lickers, Thomas Nudds, Juri Peepre, Paul Wilkinson, Stephen Woodley, Pamela Wright)
  • 2008, Bob Peart
  • 2007, Jim Thorsell
  • 2005, J. Gordon Nelson
  • 2003, Mike Harcourt and Derek Thompson
  • 2002, Elizabeth May
  • 2001, Monte Hummel
  • 2000, Diane and Mike McIvor
  • 1999, Stephen Herrero
  • 1998, John Theberge (with special recognition of Mary Theberge)
  • 1997, Cliff Wallis
  • 1996, Ruby Dunstan
  • 1995, J. Stan Rowe
  • 1992, Vernon C. Brink and Jennifer Shay
  • 1990, Andy Russell
  • 1989, Gavin Henderson
  • 1987, Alex T. Davidson
  • 1985, Michael J. Nolan, Charles Sauriol, and George W. Scotter
  • 1981, George F. Ledingham
  • 1978, William Fergus Lothian
  • 1975, Roderick Haig-Brown
  • 1972, Hon. Jean Chrétien

Related news and articles