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Some of the very best of Canadian public service journalism was honoured tonight by the Michener Awards Foundation.
Congratulations to Kathy Tomlinson of The Globe and Mail, winner of the 2019 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism for False Promises, an investigation into the exploitation of temporary workers and foreign students.
A joint investigation by CBC News and CBC Sports on sexual offences in amateur sport was among six nominees for this year’s award.
The other nominees were The London Free Press for a series that probed the 2016 assault of a young woman in custody; La Presse for an exposé of alleged illegal dumping by a soil decontamination business; The Halifax Examiner for a story about a wrongful conviction and exoneration in a 1995 murder, and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism for a collaboration with the Toronto Star, Le Devoir, Regina Leader-Post, Global News, National Observer, and Star reporters in Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton that revealed how lead is leaching into Canadian tap water from aging infrastructure.
You can find all of this important work at these links:
Founded in 1970 by then-governor general Roland Michener, the awards were meant to be Canada’s answer to the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. CBC TV and The Financial Post won the first Michener for a co-produced series on the air charter business.
Canada’s public broadcaster has done well in the 50 years since the inaugural award, having been nominated more than 30 times and winning five more.
While news organizations like ours produce all sorts of stories and features, public service journalism is a special breed of storytelling that requires deep commitments of time, resources, investigative skill and legal support. It can be the most difficult and costly journalism to produce; it’s also often the most important work we do.
This week we rolled out a major project called The Big Spend, an investigation into the staggering sums of money given out by the federal government to businesses and individuals to deal with COVID-19.
It’s a significant piece of accountability journalism that digs under the big, opaque government funding announcements of the last eight months to better understand what’s working, who has benefited and who has not. Our journalists spent weeks poring over tens of thousands of documents from hundreds of different sources to get the full picture.
CBC News takes its public service journalism mandate seriously and we are as committed to making an impact in our local communities as we are on the national stage.
On Tuesday, CBC British Columbia won three Jack Webster Awards, which honour the best reporting in the province: excellence in digital journalism for B.C. COVID-19 coverage; best feature or enterprise reporting in radio or podcast for Not Alone; and a new award for excellence in diversity and inclusion reporting for When is Enough Enough? A CBC Town Hall from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
A few weeks ago, The Fifth Estate and CBC Nova Scotia revisited April’s mass shooting, one of Canada’s deadliest events, revealing new information about what the RCMP knew and when it knew it over those 13 deadly hours.
Here are some other recent examples of impact journalism from across the country:
- Earlier this year, CBC Toronto’s Shanifa Nasser told the story of a woman with a mental health illness who died in hospital after an altercation with security guards. Shanifa got answers from the hospital for the family that they hadn’t been able to get for themselves, including the fact two employees had been let go following an internal review. Last month, Shanifa revealed new details from a coroner’s report that a security camera was “purposely turned away” for more than two minutes as the guards restrained the woman. This week, two hospital guards were charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death.
- On Nov. 20, Ottawa’s Integrity Commissioner presented the final part of his report on local councillor Rick Chiarelli’s behaviour toward female job applicants and staff in his council office. This all happened because of the investigative work of Ottawa reporter Joanne Chianello with the support of producer Jennifer Chevalier — starting back in September 2019. Ottawa City Council formally accepted the report, voted to suspend Chiarelli’s pay for 15 months and donate that money to a local non-profit organization that works to prevent violence against women.
- Angela Sterritt recently reported exclusive details of the 911 call that led to an Indigenous man and his granddaughter being arrested and handcuffed at a BMO branch in Vancouver. Angela broke this story last winter and has been owning it ever since. It has led to numerous internal and external investigations by the Vancouver Police Department and BMO.
- Bonnie Allen and Kendall Latimer‘s reporting on the #MeToo movement in Regina and an Instagram account that documented stories sparked the resignation of a prominent mental health advocate and an ongoing internal review at a non-profit aimed at empowering young, vulnerable people in the city.
- Sally Pitt of CBC Prince Edward Island produced a series of stories looking at the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on the Island’s mental health system. By Nov. 12, questions related to Sally’s story were being tabled during question period at the legislature. The province has since reopened six of the beds and revealed a shortage of psychiatric nurses to staff the remaining beds there.
- Elizabeth Chiu reported on a domestic abuse survivor, who was arrested after missing court and not testifying against her ex-boyfriend. Legal experts and politicians condemned the practice. A week after the report, assault charges against the woman were dropped.
- In this CBC Thunder Bay story, Jody Porter revealed how members of the LGBTQ community were concerned that counselling services by an evangelical group were conveying a harmful message. Two days later, those services were no longer available on Northern Youth Programs’ website. In an email on Sept. 18, CEO Norman Miller said, “The article prompted us to look at these materials with fresh eyes, and focus on our priorities of providing a safe environment for youth and families to grow in their relationship with Christ and with each other.”
- CBC Manitoba forced a response from the highest levels of the RCMP after Kristin Annable broke the story of a woman who was knocked unconscious at an RCMP detachment in Thompson, Man. We were able to uncover the death of another woman in the same cells, which brought to light a larger issue of people being held for intoxication at alarmingly high rates.
- In Winnipeg, producer Joanne Levasseur spent hours developing sources inside long term care homes owned by for-profit company Revera that have seen an alarming number of deaths during the COVID-19 crisis — 75 deaths in a matter of weeks. Those sources allowed Joanne and Jill Coubrough to tell this story about how one of the homes was not isolating COVID-positive residents from their roommates. The province was finally pushed into calling in the Red Cross to several homes.
- CBC Montreal’s investigative reporter Leah Hendry set out to determine why young people were put in danger by people who willfully ignored the predatory behaviour of convicted former priest Brian Boucher. Her investigation led to the highest levels in Quebec’s Catholic Church. The Church ordered an investigation and the report, out last month, confirmed Leah’s reporting. The Church has committed to implementing all of the recommendations.
Despite unprecedented challenges posed this year by COVID-19, our commitment to public service journalism remains steadfast.