The 2009 Michener Award finalists talk about their award winning stories and the people who helped make them happen – Michener Awards Ceremony, May 27, 2010
The program “W5” investigated 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.
W5 is the longest-running newsmagazine program in Canada – in North America and the most watched. Being nominated for the Michener Award is truly a high honour.
Beyond Justice is an in-depth report into three killings by RCMP officers in British Columbia and the failure of the justice system to hold police accountable.
There’s a back-story here – this was nearly only the the Robert Dziekanski story. But, by the time we could have gotten it to air – with the daily revelations from the public inquiry in British Columbia – it would have been old news.
But Robert Osborne, Patti-Ann Finlay and Victor Malarek had been digging deeper into the RCMP and accountability within the system of justice.
The cases of Ian Bush and Kevin St. Arnaud just didn’t feel right – their families left fighting for truth and justice.
But it wasn’t until we received a proverbial brown-paper envelope with the RCMP investigation reports that we discovered huge contradictions in the evidence. Evidence that was ignored by the Crown prosecutors, who took the word and – as we’ve seen in the Dziekanski case – impaired memory of Mounties over forensic explanations that called into question the officers and justice system’s agreed version of events – Evidence that was never allowed to be tested in a court of law.
That is the real, underlying and most important story.
The deaths of Ian Bush and Kevin St. Arnaud, and also Robert Dziekanski, were tragedies – for their families, friends and communities. And for the RCMP.
The Force has said it will no longer investigate itself in serious cases. But in the Bush and St. Arnaud cases the RCMP’s investigation was thorough – and contradicted the officers’ evidence. It was the justice system that failed to look at those contradictions and to hold law enforcement to the highest standard. A justice system Canadians believe should act in their interest.
The other failing was that of the one public body that was supposed to hold the Mounties accountable – the RCMP Public Complaints Commission which misread the evidence entirely.
But were it not for that brown paper envelope W5 could never have exposed those failings.
The kind of anonymous information source that Madame Justice’s Supreme Court recently ruled on giving limited protection. It is unlikely that we would have been provided those documents if our source believed we, as journalists, could be compelled to reveal their identity. An important public debate about our system of law and our national police force would have been lost.
We must take care to protect journalists’ sources so that those prepared to help expose the truth are not scared away. And we hope the lower courts will listen carefully to what the court has said.
Producing Beyond Justice would not have been possible without the dedication to W5 of Robert Osborne, Victor Malarek, Patti-Ann Finlay, Brett Mitchell, Cathy McLaughlin, André Lapalme, Paul Freer, Michael Kennedy and Robert Hurst.
And very importantly, CTV – and its ongoing commitment to investigative journalism. A commitment that continues unabated as we prepare for our 45th season.”
Michener Awards Ceremony
May 27, 2010