Aster Awards

Toronto Botanical Garden is pleased to announce its second annual Aster Awards event on Thursday, November 20 at 6:30 p.m. “Aster” is inspired by the Greek word for “star”. Four of our Canadian stars, whose achievements in arts and science inspire us to preserve nature, will be honoured during the evening’s cocktail reception ceremony. The event will be hosted by one of Canada’s leading garden writers, Marjorie Harris, along with honourary chair renowned artist Charles Pachter. #TBGAsterAwards

Thursday, November 20, 2014, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
TICKETS $125 per person (10 for $1,000)

The recipients of the 2014 Toronto Botanical Garden Aster Award come from varied disciplines, but they share a common theme with the botanical garden world: a passion for nature. From exploring the consequences of human interaction with our environment, to DNA barcoding of all living organisms, the work of these extraordinary individuals has inspired us to embrace and defend the natural world.

This year’s Aster Award honourees are Margaret Atwood, renowned Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist and environmental activist, and Dr. Paul Hebert, Scientific Director of the International Barcode of Life project, Director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biodiversity, University of Guelph.  This year’s “Rising Star Award” recipients are Education Coordinators Kanaka Kulendran and Xuan-Yen Cao from The Stop Community Food Centre.

An exciting new addition this year will include SUSTAINABLE.TO receiving the 2014 Advocate for Canada Award from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign as part of the evening ceremony. SUSTAINABLE.TO designed and built five unique bee hotels across sites around the GTA as part of the Wild for Bees initiative – a partnership with Burt’s Bees, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and the Pollinator Partnership Canada. Based on the most current understanding of bee behaviour, they worked with the bee experts at P2C to create bee habitats that were functional to a diverse species.  One of these bee hotels resides in the Toronto Botanical Garden Kitchen Garden.

“Upon first hearing of Dr. Hebert’s visionary Barcode of Life project almost 10 years ago, it sounded straight out of science fiction to me”, says Harry Jongerden, TBG Executive Director. “If Dr. Hebert hadn’t envisioned the Barcode of Life, perhaps Margaret Atwood would have imagined it. The author and creator of imagined worlds, and of characters the likes of ‘God’s Gardeners’, connects us emotionally to nature, while the scientist provides us with the rigour to understand nature. We believe the pairing of this year’s recipients is very fitting, if not inspired.”

“The answers you receive from literature depend on the questions you pose. The same could be said of the answers you receive from learning about the environment”, says Margaret Atwood. “I am honoured to receive this award and hope to inspire many others to seek out ways to live in harmony with the natural environment and to preserve it for our future generations.”

“I am very pleased to receive this award because I’ve long been in love with botanic gardens” says Dr. Paul Hebert. “They are magical places; they juxtapose colours, shapes and scents in ways unknown in the wild world. They also remind us of our capacity and responsibility to care for the other species on our planet.”

More about the 2014 Aster Award recipients:

Margaret Atwood is recognized at one of Canada’s most prominent and prolific contemporary writers. Greatly influence by her father’s occupation in entomological research, she discovered her interest in nature at a very early age. She actively supports numerous nature and conservation groups both in Canada and internationally. Ms. Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), the MaddAddam trilogy and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000.

Dr. Paul Hebert is best known for leading the development of DNA-based identification systems. In 2003 he propose barcoding as a way of distinguishing and identifying species with a short standardized gene sequence. He is now the Scientific Director of the International Barcode of Life Project, the largest program ever undertaken in biodiversity science and one involving researchers in 25 nations. His 400 publications have received more than 25,000 citations. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biodiversity at the University of Guelph where he is Director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and has honourary degrees from the Universities of Waterloo and Windsor.

Kanaka Kulendran has been working in Education for over 10 years, including work as a classroom teacher, developing programs and curriculum, and coordinating programs for non-profit children and youth programs in priority neighbourhoods across Toronto, the GTA and abroad.  She is currently working for The Stop Community Food Centre developing and delivering innovative food education programs for children and youth with her dynamic work partner, Xuan-Yen Cao.  Throughout her 2 years and The Stop, she has had the opportunity to work with community members and partners to build learning spaces that cultivate knowledge, voice and leadership on issues surrounding poverty, food issues, and sustainability. Kanaka is a strong believer that Kids are never too young for anything, be it learning to use a chef’s knife safely at the age or 7 or having real talk about poverty and social barriers that families face in many communities throughout Toronto.

Xuan-Yen Cao is a garden and food educator working with children, youth and families. Over the past 8 years she has worked with organizations such as Green Thumbs Growing Kids, Greenest City, Hincks-Dellcrest, and FoodShare. Being engaged in various food and community initiatives in Toronto, she witnessed how communities are transformed by school food gardens, urban agriculture, and hands on-environmental education. She spent formative years establishing and working in school food gardens around the city developing bilingual curriculum and workshops. She is currently working at The Stop Community Food Centre with her partner in crime Kanaka (or Xanaga) developing and facilitating food systems programs for children and youth, broadening our understanding of what environmental sustainability really means and celebrating the power of food culture. When not getting her hands dirty with soil, cooking, writing, or riding her bicycle, she spends her spare time watching/admiring the various flora and fauna (humans) as they interact in this biodiverse dynamic urban ecosystem we call Toronto.

Honorary Chair, Charles Pachter
One of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, Charles Pachter is a painter, printmaker, sculptor, designer, historian, and lecturer. He was born in Toronto and holds degrees from the University of Toronto, the Sorbonne, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He holds honorary doctorates from Brock University, the Ontario College of Art & Design, and the University of Toronto. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Chevalier of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee medal. Read on…

Master of Ceremony, Marjorie Harris
Is one of Canada’s leading garden writers.  She has been the gardening columnist for Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail since 1990 ; makes speeches across the country; was the Editor-at-Large of Gardening Life magazine until it folded in November/08. She has been an editor at Chatelaine and Maclean’s;  written 15 gardening books,  lives in Toronto and run MARJORIE HARRIS GARDENS,  a plant consulting business.

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Many thanks to our generous sponsors




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For more information or to purchase your tickets over the phone call Christine Lawrance 416-397-1321 or spevents@torontobotanicalgarden.ca

For a complete list of sponsorship opportunities, please contact Claudia Zuccato Ria, 416-397-1372 or development@torontobotanicalgarden.ca

The 2013 Aster Award recipients:

  • Janet Rosenberg, a recognized figure in landscape architecture and urban design across Canada.
  • Edward Burtynsky, known as one of Canada’s most respected photographers.
  • Scott MacIvor, an ecologist with research interests in biodiversity and ecological trade offs in urban areas and in architectural and landscape design.


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