Ottawa, May 7, 2019 – The Michener Awards Foundation today announced the finalists for the 2018 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism.
The finalists are: CBC-TV The Fifth Estate; The Waterloo Region Record; St. Catharines Standard; The Toronto Star/CBC News/Societe Radio-Canada; The Telegraph-Journal; and CBC North/APTN.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will host the Michener Awards ceremony at Rideau Hall on June 14 where the winner of the 2018 Michener Award will be announced and two Michener-Deacon Fellowships will be presented.
The Michener Award, founded in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, then governor general, honours excellence in public-service journalism. The judges’ decisions are heavily influenced by the degree of public benefit generated by the print, broadcast and online entries submitted for consideration.
Chief judge Margo Goodhand noted an exceptional number of entries this year, from newsrooms large and small.
“Reports of the ‘demise’ of local journalism could not be better countered than by a look at this year’s Michener finalists,” said Michener Foundation President Alan Allnutt. “The quality of the work and its impact on Canadians’ lives is truly impressive.”
These are the 2018 finalists:
CBC Television News: Unbuckled — School Bus Safety
It’s a question parents have asked for decades: Why don’t school buses have seatbelts? For years, Transport Canada has claimed buses are actually safer without them. This Fifth Estate five-month investigation discovered flaws in its seatbelt ‘science’ and pivotal 1984 study which kept seatbelts off school buses across North America for more than 30 years. It constructed a database of dozens of studies and academic journals, and revealed that the school bus industry has lobbied against seatbelts to keep costs down. It discovered that Transport Canada itself concluded eight years ago that school buses with seatbelts would have prevented numerous deaths and thousands of injuries. Transport Minister Marc Garneau formed a task force to study the issue. The Ontario School Bus Association came out in favour of three-point seatbelts. And, starting Sept 1, 2020, seat belts will be mandatory on medium and large highway buses in Canada.
The Waterloo Region Record: Rubber Town
The Record’s Greg Mercer spent months investigating the toxic legacy of Kitchener’s once-booming rubber industry. He found a troubling pattern of workers who had been exposed to carcinogens and later diagnosed with cancer and other lung diseases, but whose claims for compensation were denied. Mercer used public records to show that 85 per cent of the claims for compensation were denied based on out-dated science, leaving some workers, widows and families of former rubber workers struggling financially. With rubber companies, their unions and many workers now gone, the newspaper became an advocate for these victims and their families. The series prompted Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to launch a formal review of more than 300 rubber workers’ previously rejected claims for occupational disease. Now, thanks to the work of one reporter in a small newsroom, some of those claims are being accepted.
St. Catharines Standard: All the Chair’s Men
In a year-long investigation, reporter Grant LaFleche uncovered a conspiracy to manipulate the hiring of the Niagara Region’s top bureaucrat and a secret contract worth more than one million dollars. Leaked documents, confidential sources, encrypted emails — all the stuff of a modern movie thriller. But this wasn’t fiction. The Standard’s most ambitious investigation was a textbook example of dogged, relentless, digging by a reporter determined to shed light into the corners of the region’s shady political business. Undaunted by intimidation and public criticism aimed at discrediting their reporting, LaFleche and his editors refused to back down and just kept digging. As a result, the more than 50 stories published triggered an ongoing Ontario Ombudsman’s probe into the politics of the Niagara Region, and played a role in shaping the outcome of the 2018 municipal election.
The Toronto Star, CBC News, Société Radio-Canada: The Implant Files
In collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a team formed by the Toronto Star, CBC News and Radio-Canada exposed lax approval, regulation and oversight of Canada’s medical device industry. Among the findings: devices continued to be implanted into Canadians years after being banned elsewhere due to health risks, and blanket secrecy around the public reporting of serious medical device incidents in Canada. Since 2008, defective implants have killed 1,400 Canadians and sickened another 14,000. Health Canada has approved the marketing of breast implants that are now associated with autoimmune diseases and a rare form of cancer. This project produced a database of more than 160,000 incident reports. Dozens of news and public affairs reports almost immediately resulted in the federal government announcing a comprehensive and ambitious reform of the regulatory system governing medical implants. As well, Health Canada moved to ban textured breast implants.
The Telegraph-Journal: Sounding the Alarm
An 18-month investigation by the Telegraph-Journal exposed problems with New Brunswick’s ambulance service that were creating life-and-death consequences for the province’s residents. A critical shortage of paramedics meant ambulances were sitting unstaffed and idle. More than once, people suffering health emergencies were loaded into ordinary vehicles by concerned onlookers because ambulances parked only minutes away failed to arrive. At least one person died. Meanwhile, the shortage of paramedics caused skyrocketing overtime payments, injuries and mental-health issues among the front-line workers. The Telegraph-Journal team, led by investigative reporter Michael Robinson, pushed past stonewalling and misleading data from Ambulance New Brunswick, and secrecy by the provincial government. The ambulance issue became a major factor in the provincial election, with the new government quickly announcing a wide-ranging overhaul of the service. In announcing that overhaul, the government cited the Telegraph-Journal’s coverage.
APTN: Life and Death in Care
CBC North: Righting the Wrongs for Youth in Government Care
Reporters at both CBC North and APTN unraveled Ariadne’s thread as they tackled the issue of indigenous teens let down by the child welfare system in 2018. They followed a thread that started with one story, and ended up exposing systemic failures.
Youths living in group homes operated by the Yukon government approached CBC North reporter Nancy Thomson with their stories of physical abuse and neglect. Her work eventually led to investigations by the department of Health and Social Services and by the Office of the Yukon Child Advocate. The Yukon government publicly apologized to the youths — and the public — for its failure to protect them, and announced a series of corrective measures.
APTN reporters Kenneth Jackson and Martha Troian showed the same determination investigating the death of a 15-year-old from Poplar Hill First Nation, Kanina Sue Turtle, who filmed her suicide while in a foster home owned by a child welfare agency. They set out to investigate the connection between the high rate of suicides among Indigenous youth — five to six times higher than in the non-indigenous population — and child welfare. APTN exposed the lack of a surveillance system to keep track of suicides in First Nations. They also showed that children’s aid societies in Ontario don’t provide the data needed to determine the number of Indigenous kids taken from their homes.
Last February, Ottawa tabled Bill C-92, aimed at stopping the over-representation of Indigenous children in foster care. But as APTN’s investigation shows, without proper data tracking, the legislation cannot deliver on its promises.
Judges for the 2018 Michener Awards:
- Margo Goodhand: former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press and the Edmonton Journal;
- Pierre Tourangeau: former ombudsman and news director of Radio-Canada
- Sally Reardon: former senior CBC-TV news producer
- Katherine Sedgwick: journalism professor at Loyalist College and former deputy editor of Montreal Gazette
- Pierre Asselin: former editorialist for Le Soleil
- Mary McGuire: journalism professor at Carleton University
2018 Michener Awards
Recognizing outstanding and unbiased public service in journalism, the award is presented to news organizations rather than to individuals: newspapers, broadcasting stations and networks, news agencies, periodicals, magazines and online journalism sources.
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