Your Excellencies, parliamentarians, fellow directors, ladies and gentlemen.
I join in your welcome for the presentation of the 40th annual Michener Award and the 23rd annual Michener-Deacon Fellowship.
Your Excellency, on behalf of the Foundation board I would also like to thank you for your continued strong support, the wisdom of your remarks over the past five years and your suggestions that have improved the ceremony.
You have helped to make the Michener Award, more than ever, Canada’s most prestigious honour for excellence in journalism. Merci beaucoup.
In a few minutes, we will honour one winner of the Michener Award for 2009.
But I must tell you that the six finalists in this competition are all of great merit and represent what was judged to be the best in investigative journalism for the year 2009.
The outstanding work of all of our finalists deserves to be known as widely as possible. It was former Governor General Roland Michener’s intent in establishing this award that it should become a continuing source of motivation for public service journalism across Canada.
To help get the word out, we are pleased that for the second time CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel will be broadcasting a program about the finalists on its national network.
Before we get to the awards, I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor as President of the Foundation, David Humphreys, and on behalf of the board, thank him for his excellent work over the past five years.
We will begin the presentations this evening by awarding the Michener-Deacon Fellowship, Canada’s premier award to encourage excellence in investigative journalism that serves the public interest.
For the past 23 years, the Fellowship has served to support and encourage high quality projects.
The judges have awarded this year’s Fellowship to Julie Ireton, business and high-technology reporter at CBC Ottawa.
She plans to use the Fellowship to investigate what she describes as intermediaries, double-dipping and cronyism in the federal public service.
In her application for the Fellowship, Ms. Ireton wrote: “The workforce tasked with keeping this country operating smoothly and efficiently isn’t so smooth and efficient. Many believe the federal public service is rife with problems.”
She also asked a number of questions: “What is the long-term plan for the federal public service, especially in areas such as high technology? What’s going to happen as the population gets older and many public servants retire? How are policies to hire middle-man companies saving the taxpayer money? How often are these practices creating vulnerable workers. ”
She plans to prepare a series of investigative stories on the public service to air on CBC radio and television and to write a report to be published on the CBC web site.
Your Excellency, I’m pleased to present Ms Julie Ireton (The Governor General presents the certificate)
A seven-part series about the North by last year’s Michener-Deacon Fellowship winner Ed Struzik is being published in the Edmonton Journal this week and will be available on the Michener Foundation website.
Next we have the rare honour to present the Michener Foundation’s award that is presented to special recipients.
The Special Award, established in 1983, is presented infrequently at the discretion of the Board of Directors to an individual whose achievement exemplifies the best in public service journalism.
This Special Award has been renamed as the Michener-Baxter Award in honour of the late Clive Baxter. Mr. Baxter accepted the very first Michener Award in 1970 on behalf of the Financial Post. His family has always been a generous supporter of the Michener Foundation.
The Michener-Baxter Award is being presented posthumously this year to Michelle Lang, the 34-year-old Calgary Herald journalist who was killed while reporting in Afghanistan on Dec. 30 of last year.
We are delighted that Michelle’s parents, Art and Sandra Lang, are here this evening for the presentation.
Michelle Lang was called to journalism while she was a student at Simon Fraser University. She began her career as a summer intern at the Prince George Free Press and honed her reporting skills at the Moose Jaw Times-Herald and Regina Leader-Post before joining the Calgary Herald in 2002.
For her work in 2008 as a reporter specializing in the health and medicine field she received one of the top prizes in the National Newspaper Awards.
On Dec. 11 of last year, Michelle arrived at the NATO military base at Kandahar Airfield to cover the war in Afghanistan for Canwest, Canada’s largest newspaper group. Within a day she had arranged for her first trip “outside the wire” of the huge military base to cover Canadian troops in the field.
On December 30 she was again “outside the wire” covering Canadian soldiers working on a reconstruction team in rural villages. Michelle was in a light armoured vehicle with several soldiers conducting a patrol near Kandahar City when they were hit with an improvised explosive device. Michelle and four soldiers died in the attack.
Michelle took great risks to make sure the public was well informed on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan and Canada’s redevelopment and reconstruction efforts. She ultimately gave her life in this noble cause.
We are proud this evening to present the Michener-Baxter Award to Michelle Lang, a young Canadian who exemplified the very best in public service journalism.
I ask Mr. and Mrs. Lang to come forward, and I invite your Excellency to present the award. Then Lorne Motley, editor of the Calgary Herald, will say a few words. (Award is presented.)
We now turn our attention to the Michener Award. This year we received 33 entries from newspapers and broadcasters from across Canada and it’s my pleasure to introduce the finalists for the 2009 Award.
La Société Radio-Canada :
L’émission Enquête du réseau de Radio-Canada a mis en lumière le climat malsain régnant dans l’industrie de la construction au Québec, incluant des allégations d’actes criminels. Il a été révélé que les projets de construction du secteur public coûtaient souvent quelque 30 pour cent de plus qu’ailleurs au Canada en raison d’ententes secrètes et illégales. Le gouvernement du Québec a refusé (jusqu’à maintenant) d’instituer une enquête publique sur les pots-de-vin et la corruption dans le milieu de la construction. Un ex- directeur général de la FTQ construction a été arrêté et accusé d’avoir falsifié des documents. Cette question, qui était devenue l’enjeu principal de plusieurs élections municipales, l’an dernier au Québec, a entraîné la défaite du maire de la banlieue montréalaise de Boisbriand.
I invite Alain Gravel to speak about the entry by Enquête.
The program “W5” aired the in-depth report “Beyond Justice” into three killings by RCMP officers in British Columbia and the failure of the justice system to hold police accountable. Using exclusive access to police reports and forensic evidence, “W5” revealed contradictions between the public record and what the evidence suggest actually happened in the cases. “Beyond Justice” also questioned the work of RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was not reappointed and later RCMP Commissioner William Elliott announced that the Mounties would no longer investigate themselves in cases of death or other matters of public confidence.
I invite Anton Koschany to speak about CTV’s entry.
A series of articles documented problems with a $355.8-million water-management project, the largest contract in the history of the City of Montreal. The newspaper showed a lack of oversight on contracts at city hall, with the interest of a business consortium prevailing over those of the city. The series showed that major elements of the project were altered against the city’s interest days before the contract was closed. After the City of Montreal’s auditor general confirmed The Gazette’s findings, the contract was killed, saving Montreal residents millions of dollars. Two top city officials were fired. The mayor opened the city’s executive council to opposition councillors for the first time in its 70-year history.
I invite Ms. Linda Gyulai to speak about the Gazette’s entry.
The Globe and Mail:
Working from a tip, reporter Paul Koring spend months piecing together the story of a Canadian citizen, Abousfian Abdelrazik, who had been denied a passport by Canada and who was sleeping on a cot for more than a year in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, despite being cleared of wrongdoing by Sudanese officials. Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn ruled last June that Canadians have certain inalienable rights, including the right to come home, and concluded Mr. Abdelrazik’s rights had not been respected. The judge ordered that he be returned home within 15 days. He also found that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service “was complicit in the detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by the Sudanese authorities“.
I invite Paul Koring to speak about The Globe and Mail’s entry.
The National Post:
A series of reports revealed that the Crown and police in Ontario were conducting secret background checks on potential jurors in criminal trials. Improper jury vetting was found to have occurred in more than 140 trials over the past three years. The reports sparked an investigation by the Ontario Privacy commissioner, which showed that one in three Crown offices had engaged in improper background checks. The Ontario government issued a policy directive to end the practice and agreed to amend the Juries Act. As a result of the reports, the Crown Prosecutor of Nova Scotia has ordered an internal review of practices in the province. The British Columbia privacy commissioner is also reviewing a case after the judge found the jury had been secretly pre-screened.
I invite Shannon Kari to speak about the National Post’s entry.
The Times Colonist:
A series about First Nations housing revealed overcrowding, shoddy construction and threats to health on Vancouver Island. The reports drew attention to a plethora of government regulations and stakeholders as well as First Nations governance issues that contribute to the poor state of housing. This was a major undertaking for a small news staff, involving a 12-person reporting team and three photographers. Following the publication of the articles, the federal government pledged $50 million for native housing. British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell also announced that the province would take action to connect reserves with off-reserve water and sewage systems.
I invite Lindsay Kines to speak about the Times Colonists’s entry.
I am sure you can imagine the very difficult time the judges had in assessing these superb projects in public service journalism. They are all inspiring examples of the best work in our field. But a choice had to be made and now comes the moment we have been waiting for.
I call on Lucie Therrien, office of the Auditor General of Canada, to present the envelope containing the judges’ choice for the 2009 Michener Award………Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the 2009 Michener Award is…..The Gazette.
Will Alan Allnutt, publisher of The Gazette, please come forward to accept the award. (presentation of the Citations of Merit follows)
President, Michener Awards Foundation
May 27, 2010