Trent University Alumna’s Book Nominated for Shaughnessy Cohen and Lionel Gelber Prizes


Wednesday, January 19, 2011, Peterborough

Trent University alumna Shelagh D. Grant, adjunct professor in Canadian Studies and research associate of the Frost Centre, is one of five nominees for the $25,000 Canadian Shaughnessy Cohen Prize and the $15,000 Lionel Gelber Prize, for her book, Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America, published by Douglas & McIntyre.

“My success in historical research and writing would not have been possible without the opportunities provided by Trent University and the support and encouragement of so many colleagues. If the nominations are seen as an honour, it is one that should be shared by Trent University,” said Ms. Grant.

The Book
Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America examines the historical sovereignty claims of many countries over North America’s Polar Regions. According to Ms. Grant, “Changes in climate, technology and resources all put pressure on existing claims to sovereignty and control in the Arctic. As the ice melts away, international attention is drawn to potential development of the area's newly accessible resources, such as oil, gas, iron ore, and gold."

Ms. Grant’s objective behind writing the book is to have as many Canadians as possible understand the underlying history of our Arctic sovereignty issues, thus facilitating support for some tough decisions any government in power will be required to make over the next few years.

Tough Decisions for Canada
Canada needs to maintain control over its area in the Arctic, not just by military means but through significant investment in infrastructure. Deep sea ports, inspection facilities, coast guard / patrol boats, search and rescue operations and oil spill clean-up will require ongoing upgrading and maintaining, “so we can protect the environment and the people who live there,” said Ms. Grant.

“Having sovereign rights over an area is also a responsibility to the people who live there. Canada would be concerned with protecting the environment and food sources from contamination and ensuring the sustainability of the economy.”

The Author
Known for her scholarship on the Canadian Arctic, Ms. Grant is a leading historian, distinguished archival researcher, author and mentor. A graduate of the Master’s program in History at Trent in 1982, she has contributed to Trent’s outstanding reputation in Canadian Studies through her award-winning publications on the Arctic such as On Trial for Murder and through her work with Inuit communities in Nunavut.

The Trent Experience
“Trent’s interdisciplinary community made me appreciate the importance of context and comparative aspects of any issue,” added Ms. Grant. “This book is a comparative piece that looks at the tentative weaknesses, strengths and potential minefields concerning the Arctic sovereignty of three areas: Alaska, Greenland and Arctic Canada. By comparing the evolution of Arctic sovereignty in three locations, one gets a better idea of why some countries retain control and why others abandon or lose control.”

The Prizes
Established in 2000 in honour of a popular Member of Parliament from Windsor, Ontario, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing is awarded annually to a non-fiction book of significant literary merit that not only captures a political subject of interest with depth of research, but also has the potential to influence Canadian political life.

The winner of the $25,000 prize will be announced at the Politics and Pen dinner on February 16, 2011. The preceding day, award nominees will be given a tour of the Parliamentary Library where they will sign a copy of their book to be added to the Library collection. The gala dinner will take place at theFairmont Château Laurier, with 500 guests attending from the country’s political and literary communities.

The Lionel Gelber Prize is presented annually by the Lionel Gelber Foundation in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and Foreign Policy magazine. The prize goes to the world’s best non-fiction book in English that seeks to deepen public debate on significant global issues.

The announcement of the $15,000 prize will be delivered on Tuesday, March 1. The winner will deliver the annual Lionel Gelber Lecture on Tuesday, March 29 at a public award ceremony at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto and will also appear at an event in Washington, D.C. hosted by Foreign Policy magazine.

“A signed copy of my book in the Parliamentary Library… Wow. That’s something I never dreamed of,” Ms. Grant said when asked what she is looking forward to most about the festivities. "It’s also a chance to meet many well-known authors, she added, "but above all I am hoping that the publicity will encourage more Canadians to read the book so they better understand the current issues facing all the Arctic countries."


For more information, please contact: Shelagh Grant, adjunct professor, Canadian Studies,