“The Woman Who Loves Giraffes” profiles Anne Innis Dagg — pictured at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago in 2016 — at last being recognized for her groundbreaking work in Africa more than half a century ago. (Courtesy Elaisa Vargas)

‘Queen of Giraffes’ among new Order of Canada recipients with global influence

Anne Dagg’s work in the 1950s documenting the creatures in Africa paved the way for others

Talk about sticking her neck out for Canada.

The latest cohort of appointments to the Order of Canada include many people whose accomplishments have had an impact around the world, including pioneering biologist Anne Dagg, known as the “Queen of Giraffes.”

Her work in the 1950s documenting the creatures in Africa paved the way for others who became famous for living among wild animals, but Dagg was originally mocked and ignored.

To now be among the latest recipients of one of Canada’s highest honours stands as proof, Dagg said, that her work had an impact.

“I’ve always worked really hard, and done new things and written books, things that have never been thought of before,” she said in an interview from her Waterloo, Ont., home.

“It’s just so exciting to find that people are now amazed that I’ve done all that.”

Dagg’s is among the 120 names announced Friday as new additions or promotions to the Order of Canada, including five people bestowed with the top rank of companion, 38 officers and 77 members.

Among them: politicians, including former prime minister Stephen Harper, athletes such as hockey star Caroline Ouellette, journalists including Phillip Crawley, publisher of The Globe and Mail, as well as scientists, community advocates and philanthropists in fields ranging from autism to multiculturalism to ecology.

Dagg’s decision to travel to Africa to observe giraffes — an animal that had fascinated her since childhood — was considered ridiculous despite the fact it would later produce one of the first reference books on the animal, she said.

Years after her work there — she would go on to earn a PhD and publish widely — she was refused tenure because she was a woman, she said.

So while Jane Goodall would go on to become an icon for her work with chimpanzees, Dagg’s contributions remained widely unknown until a documentary about her life was released last year.

She credits the film, ”The Woman Who Loves Giraffes,” with the fact her name is now on anyone’s radar — including the Order of Canada committee — at all.

Dagg joins several other women being honoured for their work in science, including 2018 Nobel prize winner Donna Strickland, Halifax’s Dr. Noni MacDonald, a pediatrician who has also played multiple roles within the World Health Organization, and Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg of Winnipeg, honoured for her work on the genetic causes of rare diseases.

Dagg said she feels a shift over the last decade has led to women’s achievements being taken more seriously.

“I hope we can get more women and girls interested in this sort of thing,” she said.

Brian Theodore McGeer, who goes by Tad, credits in part another pioneering woman in science for his inclusion on this year’s list of Order recipients — his mother.

Edith McGeer received the Order herself in 1995, along with her husband Patrick, for their achievements in neuroscience.

Tad McGeer, an aeronautical engineer, is being recognized for his achievements in unmanned aerial systems, known more commonly as drones.

Originally from B.C., he has lived in Washington state for nearly 30 years. But he got into the business for a very Canadian reason: he was looking for a way to better forecast the weather.

Today, his work focuses on military use of the technology, with the systems he’s built in application worldwide. He joked that while his parents certainly deserved the honour, he wasn’t sure he rose to their level.

“If my country wants to be proud of me, that would be a great honour indeed,” he said.

Another family connection on the list this time around? Duncan Sinclair, whose accomplishments include efforts in the late 1990s to reform health care in Ontario, is among the new recipients of the Order. He’s also the father of Tragically Hip bassist Gordon Sinclair, who received the honour himself in 2017.

Canadians who have had a global impact in the arts are well-represented on Saturday’s list. Among them: director James Cameron, actor Xavier Dolan and Gilles Ste-Croix, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, and Brian Ahearn, a noted music producer.

Johnny Nurraq Seotaituq Issaluk’s work in the arts came after many years competing in the Arctic Winter Games. He’s played roles on stage and screen, and been an ambassador for Inuit culture at home and abroad.

Issaluk is among several leaders in Indigenous communities receiving the Order. Two others are Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams for her advocacy of Indigenous language revitalization, and John Amagoalik, known as the “Father of Nunavut” for his role in the creation of the territory.

Issaluk said he hopes being recognized with the Order will call further attention to his efforts at not just promoting his culture globally, but inspiring others to do the same.

“No matter how hard, how great, how tough, how easy, how much hate, how much love we go through — if we believe in ourselves we can accomplish anything we desire,” he said.

“As global people, we are all in this together. So let’s do it.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Help keep customer service workers safe

Remember that people asking you to respect health guidelines are still people, says retail worker

Paul Manly reacts to Liberal throne speech

Manly says the Liberals need to back up their promises with action

Best of the City: Greek taverna takes top spot

Asteras in the Old City Quarter chosen Nanaimo’s Best Restaurant Overall

Best of the City: Making a house a home

Dodd’s Furniture, voted Best Furniture Store, settles into new location in Nanaimo

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Best of the City: This year’s winners

Nanaimo News Bulletin presents full results of our 2020 Best of the City readers’ survey

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Snuneymuxw artist brings aquatic designs to Nanaimo’s Beban Park pool

Work by artist Eliot White-Hill is being installed at the pool this month

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read