• Photo: PMO / Adam Scotti

Jack Cheng couldn’t have known it then, but after the Grade 10 student had beaten 19 other finalists to win the 2016 Canadian Geographic Challenge on June 5, his trip to Ottawa was far from over.

During a VIP tour of Parliament the next day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan met Cheng, as well as Royal Canadian Geographical Society CEO John Geiger and director of education Ellen Curtis.

The prime minister congratulated Cheng on his Challenge success, and told him to never stop exploring and experiencing the country. “Don’t stop reading all those books,” said the prime minister, “but the only way to really get to know Canada’s geography is by canoe. We’ve got to get you in a canoe now, Jack!”

Cheng says he was thrilled to meet the prime minister. “He didn’t seem like I imagined a politician would be. You can tell he really loves geography too,” he said. “And Kirsty Duncan is so cool, because she’s a medical geographer. Those are my top interests.”

“We’re so excited to have Jack as our new national champion,” says Geiger, who explained that the support of the prime minister for the Challenge and geographic literacy in general is a great honour to the Society — and crucial to its mandate of making Canada better known to Canadians and to the world.