In memory of Jonathan Barker

His life remembered...

Jonathan Barker loved nature and in particular water of all kinds.

He lived in the Beaches neighbourhood in Toronto and could see Lake Ontario every day. In the summer, he and his family went to their off-grid, island paradise near Pointe au Baril on Georgian Bay as often as possible. He would enthusiastically dive into its cool waters after a hot sauna and canoe around its rocky shores and enjoy the amazing sunsets, the call of the loons (which he could mimic to perfection) and the breathtaking starry nights while singing and playing his guitar with family and friends.  It was cathartic for Jonathan and his beloved wife Wendy MacKeigan from their hectic lives as natural history IMAX filmmakers and distributors whose award-winning productions have entertained millions of people around the world, especially children, about the wonder and joys of nature and the need to understand and protect it for the welfare of everyone.  

Jonathan was highly regarded and worked with many of the world’s top natural history filmmaking talent including Sir David Attenborough and hundreds of leading scientists, and with prestigious science literacy organizations like the National Science Foundation, Tangled Bank Studios (a division of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation as well as museums and science and technology centres like the Smithsonian Institute, the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and the Science Museum in London.

Whenever he could, Jonathan would also take scuba diving trips with his family or as part of his films and explore the ocean and its wondrous marine life.  He inspired two of his sons, dedicated environmentalists, to also become filmmakers and he executive produced their award winning, eco-adventure series The Water Brothers. He was so proud that they taught him so much more about the ocean and freshwater ecosystems having covered all the leading-edge water stories of our era including issues affecting the health of The Great Lakes like invasive Asian Carp, algae blooms, plastic pollution and climate change.

It is with deep love and profound sadness that we share the news that Jonathan passed away peacefully, surrounded by Wendy and his precious children Scott, Tyler, Georgia, Alex and Caleigh the morning of July 5th.

After finishing law school at McGill, Jonathan started his career as an entertainment lawyer,  became the CEO of the Ontario Film Development Corporation, and ran the film and distribution business for Imax Corporation before co-running Shaftesbury Films for over a decade and then his own business as the CEO of SK Films, which he founded 20 years ago with Bob Kerr, co-founder of IMAX® Corporation and later joined by Wendy. Under his dynamic leadership, SK became a leading international presence.

Jonathan produced and/or distributed a wide array of some of the industry’s most significant films including Into the Deep; Oscar shortlisted film Bugs!; Flight of the Butterflies, which achieved the only ever clean sweep of the Giant Screen/IMAX Awards, won Best Immersive 3D Film at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, and is one of the most successful and acclaimed giant screen films of this decade; the award-winning Amazon Adventure; Backyard Wilderness; and the upcoming films Turtle Odyssey and Volcanoes.

A former actor, theatre producer, lead singer of an R & B band, multi-lingual, accomplished tennis player and skier, Jonathan brought a broad perspective and great passion to all things and was known for his humorous stories, sharp banter and interesting conversations but always bringing laughter and fun wherever he went.

He felt blessed by his unique career that allowed him to travel to exotic places like the Moroccan desert, the heart of the Amazon rainforest, to the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the remote mountains of Mexico, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and much more. But despite these adventures, his favorite place by far to relax was in the wilds of Georgian Bay.

Whether it was seeing waves crash against the ancient rocks on the sun sparkled, open bay, observing the windswept pines grow over the years, spotting bears swimming between the islands or majestic bald eagles flying overhead, or taking his small laser out for a sail, Jonathan felt Georgian Bay was his spiritual home. And, of course, the waters that flow through Georgian Bay are the very same waters that flow from his birthplace of Chicago, past his Toronto home and eventually through the St. Lawrence and past Montreal where he grew up. There is no better way to honor his remarkable legacy than to give back to the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, and in particular to the work of Georgian Bay Forever, including the scientific research that they do to protect this important freshwater ecosystem.

Are you a US resident?

Please note that if you are a US resident and wish to make a tax receiptable donation in memory of Jonathan, please send a cheque to the Great Lakes Basin Conservancy, PO Box 54, Gate Mills OH 44040 or online through Paypal at Please ensure your gift is earmarked for

Georgian Bay Forever through notes or additional comments. Thank you.


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