• Remembering author and environmentalist Graeme Gibson

    Graeme Gibson (left) with partner Margaret Atwood and Royal Canadian Geographical Society CEO John Geiger in 2015, when the couple received RCGS Gold Medals for their literary and conservation-related accomplishments. (Photo: Matt Zambonin/Can Geo)

Canadian author and environmentalist Graeme Gibson has died aged 85 in Toronto, where he lived for several decades with his partner, Margaret Atwood.

“He had a lovely last few weeks, and he went out on a high, surrounded by love, friendship and appreciation,” said Atwood in a statement issued by publisher Penguin Random House Canada. “We are grateful for his wise, ethical and committed life.”

Born in London, Ont., in 1934, Gibson’s best-known works include the novels Five Legs (1969), Perpetual Motion (1982) and Gentleman Death (1993), and his celebrated 1973 book Eleven Canadian Novelists, in which he collected interviews with Canadian literary giants such as Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, Timothy Findley and Atwood. He was also the co-founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada.

Of his books, The Bedside Book of Birds — which illustrates the “venerable relationship between humanity and birds” — and the followup The Bedside Book of Beasts best reflect his great love of nature and dedication to conservation. His leadership in the field included serving as a council member of World Wildlife Fund Canada, honorary president of BirdLife International’s Rare Bird Club and chairman of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, a migratory bird sanctuary he helped found in 2003. 

For his work as a tireless advocate for Canadian writers and outstanding contributions as a conservationist, Gibson was awarded The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s Gold Medal in 2015. In addition to being a Fellow of the RCGS, he was a member of the Order of Canada.