OTTAWA, April 28, 1998 – The Halifax Daily News won the 1997 Michener award for public service journalism for its coverage of a sexual abuse scandal at Nova Scotia reform schools.
Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, acting on behalf of Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, made the announcement during a ceremony held in Rideau Hall – the Governor General’s residence. The newspaper was among six finalists (drawn from 43 entries) for the Michener Award. Chief Justice Lamer said it was a privilege to present the Michener Awards to those whose work he admired – “reporters who have chased down a story, got it right, and made a difference to society”. (full text of his award night speech)
The Daily News won praise for detaching David Rodenhiser, one of its nine reporters, for a three-month study of abuse at the province’s reform schools. “Grim details of beatings, molestations and rapes emerged,” from the investigation. Much of the information contained in the Daily News stories was unearthed by reporters who discovered a “massive sealed archive” of government documents of which even some senior civil servants had been unaware. Nor had the sealed-off provincial correspondence been available to the RCMP investigating allegations at the time from 1,500 complainants. Approximately 400 suspects are under investigation. The RCMP subsequently began investigating allegations of fraud against some complainants seeking provincial compensation.
1998 Michener-Deacon Fellowship:
Justice Lamer also announced that Jean-Pierre Rogel, a science reporter with Radio Canada, was the recipient of the 1998 Michener Deacon-Fellowship. Mr. Rogel has specialized in science reporting for over 14 years. He will use the Michener-Deacon fellowship to complete a book for non-specialists on the ethics of genetic science. Specifically, in cooperation with several educational institutions, he will be dealing with the wide-ranging social and ethical impact of genetic science on areas ranging from human fertility to agriculture. (Jean-Pierre Rogel Michener Fellowship Report) Update – Mr. Rogel published his book in 1999 under the title – La Grand Saga des Genes)
(Update: Two years after the Daily News reports were published, the Nova Scotia government appointed Mr. Justice Fred Kaufmann to conduct an inquiry into the government’s handling of allegations of abuse. In his report, published in 2002, Mr. Justice Kaufmann said: “The plight of innocent employees, as well as the distress of true survivors, was greatly exacerbated by frequent stories in the press. I have no doubt that there were claimants who were truly subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Similarly, I have no doubt that there was a significant number of employees who were falsely implicated”.)
Le Droit, the Ottawa-based French language newspaper, was recognized for articles about the proposal to downsize the Montfort community hospital. The Ontario hospital was ordered to close as part of a massive province-wide restructuring plan. The Michener judging committee found the series to be an “energetic reaction to the decision by Premier Mike Harris’ hospital restructuring process to close Montfort”, the only francophone hospital in urban Ontario. The coverage included 371 news stories, 31 editorials and 177 letters to the editor published by the daily during the massive call to arms which helped spearhead a francophone backlash that so far has succeeded in keeping some Montfort functions as well as strengthening the determination of supporters to restore it to full operation. François Roy, Le Droit managing editor, accepted the award.
Citations of Merit were awarded to:
The Toronto Star was honoured for its exhaustive series on youth unemployment – 1,000 Voices, Lives On Hold. The Star series on youth unemployment involved interviews with more than 1,000 young people and was cited by Finance Minister Paul Martin as having influenced the contents of his 1998 budget, which included several measures to help youth make the transition from school to work. The series was prepared by reporters Jonathan Ferguson, Tanya Talaga and Vinay Menon. It is the sixth straight year that The Star has been a finalist. Executive managing editor James Travers accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of the newspaper.
The Calgary Herald was a finalist for an investigation into despair and death on an Indian reserve. The Alberta Provincial Court made a request, which was rejected by a neglectful federal government, to conduct a Crown investigation into why the well-endowed Stoney Indian reserve had become a “welfare ghetto … run like a banana republic”. The Herald, and its team of reporters Kim Lunman, Bob Beaty, and Mark Lowey, launched an inquiry into the unusually high rate of unnatural deaths and exorbitant salaries paid to three chiefs while the tribe was reporting a large deficit. Several months later, after publication of the daily newspaper’s in-depth investigation, the federal government took control of the band’s finances. Reporter Kim Lunman accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of the Calgary Herald.
The London Free Press, was awarded a Citation of Merit for a year-long investigation into the affairs of London Hydro that ended with a public panel of inquiry which found proof of the allegations first uncovered by the daily – derelict governance, incompetent management, and corruption among senior staff. It also uncovered a questionable $2-million consultant’s contract and an apparent illegal Hydro Ontario contract for a power plant. Philip McLeod, editor-in-chief, accepted the award on behalf of the London newspaper.
Market Place (CBC-TV), was recognized for a widely-praised and timely program on the drug industry which debated the following key questions: Why are Canadians paying so much for drugs when a lot of the research has actually been funded by tax dollars? Why are our drug costs so high when Canadian research and development for pharmaceuticals lag behind other countries? Why do we spend more on marketing than on research? Why do we introduce new drugs that often offer no greater benefit than the older drugs? Marketplace is a CBC-TV consumer affairs program and has been on the air since 1972. The Citation was accepted by Renée Pellerin, representing CBC Television.
Judges for the 1997 Michener Award:
Françoise Côté, author and journalist, Montreal; Jeannine Locke, former journalist with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Toronto Star, now-retired CBC film-maker; Marilyn MacDonald, former Atlantic provinces magazine and CBC journalist, Communications Consultant Halifax; Arch MacKenzie, former Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press and The Toronto Star (Chair of the Judging Panel); Kevin Peterson, former publisher of the Calgary Herald.
Judges for the 1998 Fellowship:
David Humphreys, Public Affairs Consultant, Ottawa; former Senior Editor, Calgary Albertan, Ottawa Journal, FP Publications, Globe and Mail; Duncan McMonagle, Winnipeg, former Editor-in-Chief, Winnipeg Free Press; Guy Rondeau, former Bureau Chief, La Press canadienne, Montreal; Shirley Sharzer, Ottawa, former journalist, Toronto Telegraph, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail; Jodi White, Vice-President of Corporate Affairs at Imasco Limited; Chair of the Public Policy Forum (Chair of the Judging Panel).
The Michener Foundation Fellowship is awarded annually to one or two journalists, depending on merit, for the purpose of advancing education in the field of journalism and fostering promotion of the public interest through values that benefit the community.