How it Started

The AIP began as a dream of two immigrants to Canada, Ms. Sima Sharifi and Mr. Arnold Witzig. Sima and Arnold fell in love with their adopted country, Canada, and the North, developing a strong respect and admiration for the people living in northern communities across the country. They decided to invest everything they had in the North and its communities.

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2012: The First $1 Million Prize

The $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize was launched on April 23, 2012 at the International Polar Year 2012 conference in Montreal. Dr. Martin Fortier, Executive Director of ArcticNet and the Arctic Inspiration Prize, along with Arnold and Sima, jointly made the announcement as part of the conference’s opening plenary session, under a standing ovation from the 3,000 conference participants.

arnold speaking on stage

2012 – 2015: Support from ArcticNet and then the RHF

The ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada is honored and proud to have managed the Arctic Inspiration Prize from its beginnings in 2012, through to 2015, passing over the operational and administrative responsibility to the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), the AIP’s current Managing Partner. The RHF ensures the operational support for the AIP, so that all Co-Owner and Prize Partner contributions can go directly to AIP Laureates in the North.

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2015: Northern Ownership Established

To establish northern ownership of the AIP, the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust was settled in December 2015 and is led by a majority of northern Trustees who govern and secure the long-term sustainability of the AIP. In 2017, Arnold and Sima’s not-for-profit corporation, the S. and A. Inspiration Foundation, was closed and all of its assets transferred to the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust as a $60 million gift to permanently fund the AIP.

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Going Forward

The prize has now grown into a $3 million annual award given to northern-led teams across the North and has become entirely northern-owned and northern-led through its Co-Owners and their representatives on the AIP Charitable Trust.

person with sled in the snow