Ontario Heritage Trust announces Thomas Symons Award for Commitment to Conservation

TORONTO – The Ontario Heritage Trust is pleased to announce the creation of a new award to recognize excellence in heritage conservation in Ontario – the Thomas Symons Award for Commitment to Conservation.

This new award, part of the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards program, is named in honour of the former Chair of the Trust from 2010 to 2017, Professor Thomas Symons. Professor Symons’ dedication to protecting and promoting Ontario’s heritage over his career has had a significant impact in Ontario and across Canada.

The Thomas Symons Award will recognize individuals who have made defining contributions to heritage conservation throughout their professional careers. The broad range of heritage endeavours would include cultural and natural heritage, intangible cultural heritage, sustainability and biodiversity. Recipients’ work must demonstrate leadership, commitment, creativity, positive and significant impact to their field within the province and good conservation practices. Eligible nominees must reside in Ontario and must have spent their career in the field of conservation.

“Professor Symons' unparalleled body of work has changed the landscape of conservation in Ontario,” said Trust Board Chair Harvey McCue. “The Trust is proud to honour his achievements and, through the naming of this annual award, inspire the important work of others to come.”

“I am touched and delighted by the action of the Ontario Heritage Trust in establishing this award,” said Professor Symons. “I am honoured to be associated in this way with individuals who have given in their professional life such profound service to heritage conservation.”

The inaugural award will be presented at the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards ceremony during Heritage Week in February 2020, and thereafter awarded annually. Nominations for the Trust’s recognition programs for 2020, including this award, will open this spring and close on September 30, 2020.

About Thomas Symons

Thomas H.B. Symons, C.C., O.Ont. FRSC, LL.D., D.U., D.Litt., D.Cn.L., FRGS, KSS, served as Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust from 2010 to 2017. Throughout Professor Symons’ expansive career, he has made an indelible mark on history, higher education and heritage preservation in Ontario, across Canada and around the world. A well regarded educator at the University of Toronto, Professor Symons served as the founding president of Trent University, which opened in 1964. Under his guidance, Trent established the country’s first Indigenous Studies program, followed by a Canadian Studies program, making the University a leader in interdisciplinary research. Professor Symons has chaired or served on numerous boards and commissions concerned with intellectual, cultural and historical issues, and with international academic and cultural relations. He is a past chair of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the Commission on Canadian Studies, the National Statistics Council, and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. He also served as Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 1975 to 1978, spearheading major revisions to the province’s Human Rights Code. He is a companion of the Order of Canada, and in 2002 he was also awarded the Order of Ontario. He possesses a true passion for scholarship and for the heritage of Ontario and has made an enormous impact on the Ontario Heritage Trust through his scholarship, volunteerism and guidance.

Quick facts

  • The Ontario Heritage Trust administers recognition programs for excellence in heritage, including the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards and the Young Heritage Leaders awards, which have recognized 4,891 people since 2000.
  • Individuals’ professional work over their career was previously ineligible for the Trust’s recognition programs. This new award fills a gap in the Trust’s awards program and in the broader heritage sector in Ontario.

Learn more


For more information about the Thomas Symons Award for Commitment to Conservation, contact David Leonard at 416-314-3586 or

About the Ontario Heritage Trust

The Ontario Heritage Trust (the Trust) is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. The Trust identifies, protects, promotes and conserves Ontario’s heritage. The Trust conserves provincially significant cultural and natural heritage, interprets Ontario’s history, educates Ontarians of its importance in our society, and celebrates the province’s diversity. The Trust envisions an Ontario where the places, landscapes, traditions and stories that embody our heritage are reflected, valued and conserved for future generations.