Ottawa, June 19, 1990. Montreal Le Devoir has won the 1989 Michener Award for meritorious public service in journalism. The French language daily received the award for its coverage of the issues and challenges facing the Inuit people in northern Quebec in advance of a referendum on a proposal for self-government. The proposal was ultimately passed by native voters on April 10, 1989. Paul-André Comeau, editor-in-chief of Le Devoir, accepted the 1989 Michener Award on behalf of the newspaper.
Ramon John Hnatyshyn, Governor General of Canada, made the presentation this evening during a ceremony at Government House, in the presence of the award's founding patron, the Right Honourable Roland Michener. The seven finalists honoured were selected from among 57 entries submitted by print and broadcast news organizations. The Governor General said that each of the finalists had met the highest standards of journalism and had served their communities and profession with distinction. (full text of the Governor General's address)
À l'heure du choix ("The Deciding Hour"), Le Devoir's award-winning submission, was the title of a 48 page supplement, printed in French and Inuktitut, that appeared in the newspaper's regular Saturday issue on April 1, 1989. According to Paule Beaugrand-Champagne, then Le Devoir's associate editor-in-chief responsible for the project, coverage of the referendum presented a wide set of challenges: arrangements had to be made to receive reports promptly from 14 remote communities, isolated from each other and far from Montreal; the letters and characters of the Inuit language had to be adapted to an electronic printing process; in order to translate from French into Inuktitut, means had to be found to explain southern concepts and expressions to native readers for which there are no corresponding terms in Inuktitut; delivery of the supplement had to be made to every household in the 14 solitary communities scattered along Quebec's High Arctic coastline. (Subscribers in Montreal and other settled areas received the supplement in that day's issue of the paper.)
Le Devoir, with the smallest circulation of any metropolitan daily in Canada, succeeded in overcoming these problems and Michener judges commended the newspaper for "the extraordinary effort it made to communicate with the Inuit on an equal basis and for what it achieved." They added, "Except for the language matter, content in the supplement was quite normal... but the fact that it was done and the way it was done represented an enormous public service."
Paul Deacon, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, expressed his thanks to Governor General Hnatyshyn for hosting the 20th presentation ceremony at Rideau Hall (full text - Paul Deacon). The Foundation announced that journalists Gisèle Lalande of Outremont, Quebec, and Ann Pappert of Toronto are the recipients of 1990 Michener fellowships.
Gisèle Lalande, a reporter with Radio Canada and Radio Quebec, proposes to study the limits of multiculturalism in a multiracial Canada and the controversy such an examination may elicit in a society where 'multiculturalism' is synonymous with 'good'. The declining birth rate in Canada makes it increasingly dependent on immigration for long term growth and Ms Lalande plans to examine how prepared Canadians are to live in a society that emphasizes racial differences. She intends to publish her findings in a book following the four-month fellowship period. (Lalande Fellowship report)
Ann Pappert is a Toronto free-lance writer whose work on a wide range of scientific subjects has appeared in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, The Financial Times, the CBC and public broadcasting in the united States. Her subject of study will be reproduction technology - a field she has examined with special regard to public policy. She will study changes in techniques which are emerging in scientific laboratories. Her four-month program financed by the Michener Fellowship will enable her to spend time with leading scientists in the field. (Pappert Fellowship report)
Sunday Express Editor-In-Chief
The weekly St. John's Sunday Express (Nfld) for its report on abuses at the Mount Cashel orphanage. The Sunday Express was the first Newfoundland news organization to publish a first-hand account on abuses at the orphanage, long regarded as a haven for orphans and children from broken homes. Coverage by the Express included interviews with victims of the abuse as well as a report on a 1975 police investigation and subsequent cover-up by government agency officials.
Reporting by publisher and editor-in-chief Michael Harris and reporter Philip Lee, with contributions from virtually every reporter on staff, is deemed partly responsible for the Newfoundland government's decision to establish a Royal Commission to investigate the abuses and the province's criminal justice system. As a result of the investigation, nine Christian Brothers or former Brothers have been charged with sex-related offences at Mount Cashew and several former orphanage residents have brought damage suits against the Brothers and the government.
Beyond this, the story made major news across the country and has affected society and government in Newfoundland. Justice and social service cabinet ministers have promised policy changes and overhauls of the system to prevent future abuses. The subject of child sexual abuse is no longer forbidden, complaints to police have increased and the orphanage itself is closing.
Citations of merit in the 1989 competition were awarded to:
The Kingston Whig-Standard, for "Rock-a-Bye Baby", the story of the tragic life and death of Marlene Moore who took her life in the penitentiary for women at Kingston - ending a life of physical and mental pain inflicted on her by respected segments of society. It also described the insensitive and harsh treatment our society and our legal system can inflict on a female victim of incest and rape and of male violence, while perpetrators go free. Staff writers Anne Kershaw and Mary Lasovich initiated the story and spent 10 months researching and writing. Their finished product filled all but four of the 48 pages in the Whig-Standard's Saturday Magazine section Saturday, November 25th, 1989.
Reader's Digest, Montreal, for "The Donald Marshall Case", a 23,000 word exposé on how the white justice system failed the Nova Scotia Micmac Indian. Reporter Parker Barss Donham worked on the story from 1986 to 1989, interviewing dozens of witnesses, attended numerous court hearings and most of the sittings of the Nova Scotia Royal Commission inquiry into the case and studied more than 30,000 words of documentary evidence. The story was described by his editor as a "concise but thorough account of the incompetent, unprofessional and improper acts that led to Marshall's conviction for the murder of Sandy Seale, and the equally incompetent, mean-spirited reaction of politicians, judges and public officials once the truth became known".
Southam News for the Southam Environment project, a monumental report on the state of the environment in Canada from coast to coast and what can be done about it. In explaining its project, 'Our Fragile Future', the news service said that of all the vital issues of our time, perhaps only the question of nuclear disarmament is as crucial to the future of the planet as environmental degradation.
The Journal, CBC, Toronto for "The Human Tragedy in the Sudan", a graphic, heart-wrenching two-part television documentary on the odyssey of children who marched half way across Sudan to seek refuge in Ethiopia to escape slavery and starvation or death in the civil war raging in their homeland. The magnitude of the exodus from the Sudan is staggering. Up to 400,000 are said to have made their way to refugee camps in Ethiopia. The documentary by reporter Brian Stewart and producer Tony Burman, brought attention to the shocking face of a forgotten war.
CKNW Vancouver-New Westminster, for "Drinking, Drugs and Decisions", a radio documentary on the dangers of substance abuse broadcast by CKNW and 43 other B.C. radio stations on opening day of that province's Drug Awareness Week. The program dealt with the misery and tragedy of substance abuse through the stories of people who became addicted to alcohol and drugs but succeeded in returning to a normal life. B.C. faces staggering alcohol and drug abuse problems that cost taxpayers an estimated $2 billion annually in health care and social services and
Award Night Photo Gallery
Representatives accepting Citations of Merit on behalf of their respective news organizations.
Judges for the 1989 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, retired, Canadian Press and Ontario Press council; Emmanuelle Gattuso, vice-president, Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Ottawa; Pierre Lemieux, Montreal, formerly with CPR Public Affairs; Peter Mason former president of B.F. Goodrich, former vice-chairman Ontario Press Council; Gail Scott, Journalism, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute; Ivor Williams former editor of the Regina Leader-Post.
Judges for the 1990 Michener Fellowship:
Senator Richard Doyle, former editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail and chairman of the judging committee; George Bain, columnist and journalism teacher; Lise Bissonette, new publisher of Le Devoir; Guy Rondeau, retired chief of Quebec service for the Canadian Press; Doris Anderson, former editor of Chatelaine and former head of the National Council on the Status of Women; and Ted Chapman, retired Calgary broadcasting executive.
The Michener Award is unique because its criteria do not require judges to take account of journalistic skills. Instead, they must consider each entry on its merit, its freedom from any thought of gaining some personal or corporate advantage, and its service to society.