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Michener Awards Foundation announces finalists for the 2020 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism

Press Release

OTTAWA, April 20, 2021 – The Michener Awards Foundation today announced the finalists for the 2020 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism.

This year’s finalists are: APTN; CBC News; The Globe and Mail; The Montreal Gazette; La Presse; and the Winnipeg Free Press.

“The Michener Awards are Canadian journalism’s highest honour,” said Michener Foundation President Pierre-Paul Noreau, “and all six of these finalists are to be congratulated for their dedication to truth, social justice, and public service in a challenging year.”

Currently celebrating its 50th year, the Michener Award was founded in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, then Canada’s governor general, to honour excellence in public-service journalism. The judges’ decisions are heavily influenced by the degree of public benefit generated by the print, broadcast and online stories submitted for consideration.

Chief judge Margo Goodhand noted this year’s submissions, produced under pandemic conditions, were particularly inspiring. Two of the finalists’ work are related to the COVID-19 virus which has gripped the globe since 2020.

Here are the 2020 finalists:

APTN — Death by Neglect

She was four when she first showed signs of sexual abuse. She was 12 when she hung herself. Sacha Raven Bob’s short tragic life in care is at the heart of APTN’s Kenneth Jackson and Cullen Crozier’s searing investigation. Sacha lost two sisters to suicide within seven months. All were in the care of the same Ontario First Nations child welfare agency. But it is Sacha’s death report, plus interviews with sources — who risked their jobs and homes to speak up — which reveals how the system failed her. Within weeks of APTN’s broadcasts, investigations were launched into individual cases; families were reunited; new funding was announced for on-reserve child welfare; and a pandemic moratorium was imposed on Ontario youths aging out of care. As APTN shows, however, the humanitarian crisis continues unabated. There are more Indigenous children in care today than in Canada’s infamous residential school system at its height.

CBC News — Inside Rideau Hall

Admired, distinguished, and above all, uncontroversial. Until now, these were the essential qualities of Canada’s Governor General; a position considered unassailable, untouchable. But when word began circulating that Governor General Julie Payette’s reign might be anything but uncontroversial, CBC journalists Ashley Burke and Kristen Everson reached out to former employees, many fearful of saying anything. Rideau Hall was described as “a house of horrors” with allegations of mistreatment and verbal abuse. Their investigation drew back the official curtain to reveal a toxic work environment, evidence of questionable spending, and a flawed government vetting process. Payette, along with her second-in-command, resigned; a once unimaginable coda for the tenure of a Canadian head of state. The CBC’s investigation was not just about being a public service, it was about basic workplace standards, transparency and accountability. In the end, it held to account those in the nation’s highest constitutional office.

The Globe and Mail — Silenced

Canada should have been among the first countries to know about COVID-19. Its Global Public Health Intelligence Network, a branch of the Public Health Agency of Canada, was once a world leader in gathering information and issuing alerts about outbreaks. But as The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson discovered, the network had been effectively silenced. Bureaucrats without epidemiological expertise had been brought in to run it; its once lightning-fast alert system undermined by a slow-moving approval process and then stopped altogether; and its analysts instructed to turn their attention to domestic rather than global issues. The result: when COVID-19 hit, Canada was under-informed and ill-prepared. Robertson’s revelations had an immediate impact. Canada’s auditor-general ordered an investigation. The federal health minister established a review. Top officials at the Public Health Agency were replaced. And perhaps most importantly: the nation’s early-warning system was restored.

 

Montreal Gazette: The Dorval seniors’ home

Early in the pandemic the Montreal Gazette shocked the country with a story about the horrific conditions inside one private nursing home in Dorval. Residents were found dehydrated, malnourished, soiled in their own feces and abandoned by staff after COVID-19 began spreading through the home. The story began with a tip to the Gazette’s long-time health reporter, Aaron Derfel. Within hours of online publication, some families were moving their loved ones out of the home, and the West Island health authority moved in to take over. Later, by examining death records, Derfel was able to show far more people died in the home during the outbreak than the health authority admitted, and shone a spotlight on the plight of Canada’s institutionalized elderly. The Premier ordered a police investigation of the original managers for what he called “gross negligence” and inspections of 40 privately run long-term care centres in the province.

La Presse — The Other Epidemic: sexual exploitation of kids on the internet

We might believe we know everything about life in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in this disturbing series, La Presse journalists Gabrielle Duchaine and Caroline Touzin reveal how pedophiles have taken advantage of the massive number of children at home and online to stalk their young victims. Cases of internet sexual exploitation have increased at an unprecedented rate this year, further overburdening a justice system that — even under normal circumstances, according to La Presse — fails to process tens of thousands of reports received every year. “L’autre épidémie” is based on a year of research and interviews with dozens of experts: police officers, prosecutors, researchers, aid organizations, and more importantly with victims and even predators. This series had an immediate impact, prompting the Quebec government to promise an action plan to combat child pornography, and to change its compensation program for victims of crime to include victims of sexual exploitation on the internet.

The Winnipeg Free Press — A Stain on Our Game

In this gripping six-part series, Winnipeg Free Press reporter Jeff Hamilton reopens the case of disgraced junior hockey coach Graham James, the sexual predator whose first conviction in 1997 never brought about a larger reckoning in the Canadian hockey world. But this investigation brings new evidence to light. Hamilton’s powerful storytelling shows not only how abusers enabled each other, but the complicity of team and league management as they turned a blind eye when it suited them. Hamilton recounts for the first time how a team captain’s attempt to lead a players’ revolt was thwarted. And he allows a new victim of James, unknown even to his own family, to share his lifelong secret. Following publication, Sheldon Kennedy’s Respect Group experienced a surge in survivors reaching out for help, empowering victims to speak out, seek help, and overcome shame; and discussions are underway to include the series in a pending class-action lawsuit.

Earlier this week, the Michener Awards Foundation announced the recipients of the 2021 Michener-L.Richard O’Hagan Educational Fellowship and the Michener-Deacon Investigative Fellowship.

The educational fellowship goes to Allison Baker and Viviane Fairbank for a fact-checking project called In Defence of Truth. Their goal is to create a book-length version of The Walrus Fact-Checking Guide which will establish clear guidelines and a common methodology for reporting and verification to train journalists, academics and the public. The project also aims to create a free and accessible curriculum for fact-checking education, hosted digitally by Carleton University.

The investigative fellowship goes to Ethan Cox and Erin Seatter, who will lead a Ricochet team investigation into police misconduct in Canada and the role of public accountability structures around policing.

Each of these fellowships is worth $40,000, plus $5,000 for expenses.

The 2020 Michener fellowship recipients are traditionally honoured at the annual Michener Awards ceremony in June at Rideau Hall, hosted by the Governor General of Canada. Due to the pandemic, the Michener Awards will be virtual this year.

Judges for the 2020 Michener Awards:

  • Chief judge Margo Goodhand: former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press and the Edmonton Journal
  • Pierre Tourangeau: former ombudsman and news director of Radio-Canada
  • Sally Reardon: former senior CBC-TV news producer
  • Katherine Sedgwick: journalism professor at Loyalist College and former deputy editor of Montreal Gazette
  • Pierre Asselin: former editorialist for Le Soleil
  • Mary McGuire: journalism professor at Carleton University

About the Michener Awards

The Michener Awards honour, celebrate, and promote excellence in Canadian public service journalism. Established in 1970 by the late Right Honourable Roland Michener, Governor General of Canada from 1967 to 1974, the Michener Awards are Canada’s premier journalism award. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this prestigious prize. The Michener Awards Foundation’s voluntary Board of Directors administers the award, in partnership with the Rideau Hall Foundation. Learn more at www.MichenerAwards.ca.

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For further information:
Margo Goodhand; Chief Judge, Michener Awards
[email protected]

For media inquiries:
Jill Clark
Manager of Communications, Rideau Hall Foundation
613-619-0230
[email protected]

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