For her entire adult life, Élisabeth Nadeau has been working to serve Canadians, and not just in the context of her position as an RCGS Fellow and vice-president. It started with her work in the federal government for Transport Canada, her passion for public service already stoked by her father, who brought home transcripts of parliamentary debates, which she would promptly steal and read enthusiastically. She was able to delve into her other passion, geography, in 1997, when she crossed paths with Denis St-Onge, the former president of the RCGS who had been the head of the geography department at the University of Ottawa when Nadeau studied there. He invited her to join the RCGS, and since becoming a Fellow in 1997, Nadeau has worked tirelessly for the Society, donating her time and expertise through a number of committees. Nadeau served as a governor for the organization from 2003 to 2009 and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal on the recommendation of the Society.
Most recently, she became chair of the policy and planning committee and helped steer the Society through the development of its first strategic plan, which, once finalized, will serve as a guidebook of sorts for the next five years. Her federal government experience certainly helped: strategic planning may not be the most exhilarating of tasks, but it’s crucial, and calls for a special type of person. Since the autumn of 2014, Nadeau has spent countless hours collaborating with the Society’s various committees, collecting ideas and thoughts from each on the future of the RCGS and organizing this information into a cohesive plan. But while she’d done this type of work during her three decades in the government, she says doing it for the Society was much more fun.
“It’s probably the first time I really enjoyed doing strategic planning,” Nadeau says with a laugh. At the end of the day, it comes back to the Society’s mandate. Just as Nadeau’s father inspired her to learn more about the country through public service, she hopes to use the Society to share her love of Canada.