Co-Winner 1975 Michener Award
Ottawa, October 6, 1976 – The Montreal Gazette and the London Free Press shared the 1975 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. The presentation of the awards was made during a Rideau Hall ceremony hosted by their Excellencies, the Right Honourable Jules Léger and Mrs. Léger.
Lindsay Crysler, executive editor of the Montreal Gazette accepted the award on behalf of the newspaper for a series on Quebec detention centres. Journalist George Hutchison accepted the award representing the London Free Press for an investigation into mercury poisoning in Ontario native communities. The Governor General congratulated the finalists for the 1975 award and said they had all served their profession well. (full text)
Also singled out for praise by the jury was the entry from CJCH Halifax. The station reported that the RCMP and other police forces had been illegally in the practice of monitoring, from concealed positions, the administration of lie-detector tests. The story influenced Solicitor-General Warren Almand into issuing a “cease-and-desist” directive to the RCMP, who for years had been trapping suspects into making self-incriminating statements for later use in court against them.
Co-Winner 1975 Michener Award
The Gazette’s entry centered around a series of articles on the treatment of unwanted or problem girls in provincially-maintained detention centres where they were handled in ways that society no longer accepts for criminals. After unsuccessful attempts to dig out the story in more conventional ways, reporter Gillian Cosgrove obtained employment in one such centre and emerged from her experience with a harrowing succession of articles that provoked swift action at both provincial and municipal levels.
Policies changed, recruiting procedures were reviewed and strengthened and new resources in time were found for the system not only in Montreal but throughout the province of Quebec. This is the second year in a row for the Montreal Gazette as a finalist. The newspaper was also the winner of the 1974 Michener Award.
The London Free Press was honoured for a five-part series, written by reporter George Hutchison and illustrated by photographer Dick Wallace, on the problem of mercury poisoning in Ontario and its effect on communities around Lake St. Clair and in the Kenora area.
The immediate focus had been on the plight of 50 fishing families around Lake St. Clair who had lost their livelihood because of pollution. But further checking led the reporting team to Kenora in the Grassy Narrows and White Dog districts. The Ojibwa people who lived here had taken most of their food and all their drinking water from the English-Wabigoon River system. It was found to be so badly polluted with mercury-laden effluent from a pulp and paper operation near Dryden, that the government of Ontario was forced to close commercial and sports fishing completely.
This resulted in the loss of two main sources of employment for the local community – guiding and commercial fishing. The mercury that made its way into the food chain, caused mercury poisoning among the Aboriginal community of Grassy Narrows. It was here that Hutchison learned first hand about Minimata disease. The newspaper travelled with representatives of the two reserves to Japan to establish contact with the medical and scientific specialists monitoring the Minimata situation.
The stories ran in the Free Press in July of last year and resulted in action at both the federal and provincial levels. Mr. Hutchison has been with the newspaper since 1964. Mr. Wallace has been a Free Press employee and photographer for 20 years.
During the presentation ceremony, Ludovic Hudon, secretary of Press Club Canada, praised Bill MacPherson, National Editor of the Ottawa Citizen and Chairman of the Award Committee for his unfaltering support since the founding of the Roland Michener Award. The Press club has been administering the Award since its inception in 1970. He also paid tribute to the artist who created the trophy which represents the Michener Award, John Matthews, a well-known sculptor from Ottawa. The sculptor was commissioned by former Governor General Roland Michener. (full text)
Judges for the 1975 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, chair of the judging panel, former Canadian Press executive and now executive secretary of the Ontario Press Council; Yves Jasmin, assistant secretary general of Communications at the National Museum of Canada, Patrick Nagle, city editor, the Vancouver Sun; and Bill Boss, director of public relations at the University of Ottawa.
The Michener award is bestowed annually, providing it is merited, to the print or broadcasting medium judged to have performed the most outstanding example of disinterested and meritorious public service in journalism in the preceding year.