The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Making Canada better
known to Canadians
and to the world.

Publishers of Canadian Geographic Magazine Publishers of géographica


About The Royal Canadian Geographical Society

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society was founded in 1929 with the important mandate of making Canada better known to Canadians and to the world. Under the patronage of the Governor General, the Society has, for 85 years, led the charge towards fostering a deeper appreciation of Canada’s natural, cultural and social heritage. While best known for its iconic publication, Canadian Geographic magazine, the Society also actively develops additional publications, such as Géographica and Canadian Geographic Travel, supports Canadian geographical expeditions, and provides grants and scholarships for cutting-edge geographical research.

In addition, the Society is active in building, promoting and supporting geographic education throughout the country, through its educational program, Canadian Geographic Education. One of the largest programs of its kind in Canada, Can Geo Education currently provides free geographic educational supports, products and materials to almost 18,000 member educators from coast-to-coast-to-coast, a number which is increasing rapidly.

The RCGS is an iconic non-profit organization that is funded primarily by generous donations. The Society’s Board of Governors and its program committees are comprised entirely of volunteers.

Canada's centre for Geography and Exploration

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Our Origins

The story of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s early years is one of success against the odds. In 1929, when geologist and explorer Charles Camsell, with 27 others who shared his vision, founded an organization that was to champion a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Canada’s immense geography, none could have imagined that the nation was on the doorstep of the Great Depression.

Nevertheless, from its first formal meeting in January 1930, the Society was established as an authority, which through its publications and programs would capture the attention and imaginations of Canadians — even through dire economic times. That was a feat in itself, as it began without a private endowment or guaranteed source of income, and was intended to be “popular in character” — open to all for membership fees of merely $3 per year.

In a sense, that notion of broad accessibility belied the eminent nature of many of the Society’s first directors. Among them famed explorer, cartographer and geologist Joseph Burr Tyrrell and ethnographer and folklorist Marius Barbeau, now considered a founder of Canadian anthropology. Camsell himself was Deputy Minister of Mines, having previously overseen the exploration of much of Canada’s North.

By May 1930, the Society had published the first issue of the Canadian Geographical Journal. It was then that Camsell’s words, now the familiar RCGS mandate “to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world,” were recorded by Lawrence J. Burpee, founding editor. Burpee, a prolific author and the first Canadian Secretary of the Joint Commission, which settled boundary disputes between Canada and the United States, guided the publication through its first years.

The journal caught hold and flourished by the same passion for scientific and geographical knowledge and the spirit of endurance that was embodied by the Society’s explorers.

Our History

Stories from Canadian Geographic magazine on the occasion of the Society’s anniversary:

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