Distinguished guests and journalistic colleagues…..Thank you for this honour.
As I look out at the crowd here, I’m reminded that either we, or our parents and grandparents came to Canada for an opportunity at a better life. That’s the story for most of us….and it’s the narrative of this country.
And that’s why the series of stories that CBC News broadcast and published on the Temporary Foreign Worker program were so relevant.
How could they not be?
The victims were people with little job security who toiled for relatively low wages.
For the most part, they were abused by their bosses who took advantage of a government program……by importing cheaper workers rather than hiring and training Canadians at a time of high unemployment.
Our stories sparked a national debate about the kind of society Canadians want.
Do we want people….not just Canadians but people from anywhere who come here….to be treated fairy?
Or do we not care because we want our coffee to be cheap and companies and their CEO’s to make grossly large profits at the expense of workers?
These are important questions with profound implications.
So, it’s no wonder our coverage sparked heated debate…everywhere.
Especially on social media and coffee shops across the country.
Eventually the government bowed to the growing public pressure ordered a review and made changes.
The lead reporter on our coverage was Kathy Tomlinson…
We got on to this because of one two-sentence email. An RBC employee wrote to me – saying he and his co workers were being shown the door. Before they left though – they had to train their replacements. Foreign workers from India. He asked me one simple question – is this legal??
The resulting story – and others that followed – encouraged hundreds of people to write to me over the next year or so. Canadian workers who were being displaced – or felt pushed aside. Foreign workers too – who felt taken advantage of or abused. People working for employers big and small. Some gave me internal company documents to prove what was going on. Some stuck their neck out and went on TV.
Before we did these stories – the problem was hiding in plain sight. That’s because people were scared to say anything – terrified they would lose their jobs. The foreign workers were scared of being deported.
We had to build a lot of trust with people. I had to cut through a lot of bafflegab from companies and government to get at the real story. But each time someone spoke out – it gave others courage to come forward.
These stories taught me the awesome power of public service journalism – thanks to each person who put their trust in us. The public’s knowledge and conviction to expose this led to real change.