Ottawa, June 10, 2009 – The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press (CP) have won the 2008 Michener Award for a joint project that analyzed and reported on the use of Taser stun guns, David Humphreys, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, announced today.
The news organizations of CBC/Radio-Canada and CP teamed up to produce a joint investigative series on Taser stun guns and particularly their use by the RCMP. They collaborated on data analysis, identification of vital trends, interviews and preparation of stories for newspapers, websites, radio and television.
The group investigative team built and analyzed a database of documents describing thousands of RCMP Taser records obtained after a 15-month fight for access. They revealed the extent to which the RCMP had “zapped” suspects multiple times with Tasers during a soaring number of stun gun firings. And because no authorities had properly tested Tasers in Canada, CBC/Radio-Canada undertook what became the largest independent electrical testing of Tasers ever conducted in the world. The analysis revealed that 10 per cent of the weapons tested were either defective or behaved unexpectedly, with some discharging significantly more electrical current than the manufacturer’s standard. (Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press and Frédéric Zalac, SRC talk about the Taser project).
As a result of the investigation, most provinces pulled their Tasers to have them tested. Recent results from Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta have verified the test results. As a consequence of this investigation, jurisdictions across the country have either already announced or are considering implementing regular testing and certification of all Tasers being used by their police officers. (link to the award winning Taser Stun Gun series)
In a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, presented coveted Michener Award trophies to Frédéric Zalac of SRC, Esther Enkin, executive editor of CBC News and Jim Bronskill, national reporter of The Canadian Press for their combined entry. Esther Enkin, representing the CBC, said in her acceptance speech, that she didn’t envy the task of the judges..adding, “I don’t know how I would have made the choice, so thank you. And that makes it even more of a privilege to have won among such an incredible and impressive range of stories. Congratulations to everyone”. (The full text of Ms Enkin’s acceptance speech)
2009 Michener-Deacon Fellowship:
The Governor General also presented the 2009 Michener-Deacon Fellowship to Edmonton Journal reporter Ed Struzik for a project on arctic sovereignty. The fellowship will allow Mr. Struzik to join an expedition of geologists who are building a case for Canada to claim an arctic area the size of the three prairie provinces. A skilled photographer and canoeist, he has been writing about environmental issues for the past 28 years and has lived and worked in the Yukon and Northwest Territories and visited every community in the Canadian North. (Full details)
A Special Award was presented by Her Excellency to Clark Davey “whose lifetime work exemplifies the best in public service journalism”. David Humphreys said Mr. Davey has served the Michener Awards Foundation for 25 years. His career, including terms as publisher of The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen and The Gazette of Montreal, has been highly supportive of the kind of investigative journalism the Michener Award encourages and honours. (Full details)
In her opening address during the award ceremony and with specific reference to the invited journalists, the Governor General said that..”Faced with a world that always seems to be in crisis, robbed of its dignity, stripped of its beauty, divided in its fragility, warming at its poles, and assaulted by the fluctuations of its economies, we must also be given the power to reflect, raise our awareness and seek clarification. I think that that is the most important – and noble – aspect of your profession”. (The full text)
David Humphreys said that the news media are going through a difficult period. New technologies, the recession and budget cuts are taking their toll. But faced with fewer newspapers and reduced television news resources he said that “we want to do everything we can within our own limited means to promote the kind of journalism that is represented here this evening”. He announced that for the first time, CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel will be broadcasting the 2008 Michener Award ceremony on its national network. (The full text)
Michener Citations of Merit were presented to:
The Hamilton Spectator: Following an extended outbreak of Clostridium Difficile at Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital that claimed the lives of 91 elderly patients, The Spectator launched an investigation on many fronts using Access or Information legislation, computer assisted reporting and investigative techniques. A team of reporters contributed to more than 100 stories, published over eight months. The Spectator eventually revealed more than 450 deaths at just 22 of Ontario’s 158 hospitals as a result of C.difficile. The reports disclosed that the province failed to heed the advice of its patient safety expert to make the reporting of C.difficile mandatory. The coverage was crucial to action taken by the Ontario government to increase funding for infection control and to require hospitals in the province to report publicly on outbreaks of C.difficile infections. (Hamilton Spectator journalist Joan Walters, explains the background to the C.difficile investigation)
Toronto Star: Scientific tests conducted by the newspaper resulted in a series of stories on high level of lead in toys being sold in Canada. This led to the largest series of product recalls in Canadian history after federal officials confirmed the Star’s findings.
Millions of toys were recalled. The investigation found that toys that could easily be swallowed by a toddler or chewed by a baby were heavily laced with lead. The federal government vowed swift action (announced in the Speech from the Throne last fall) to toughen toy safety laws to protect consumers and their children. (Toronto Star staff reporter David Bruser talks about the Toxic Toys investigation)
Winnipeg Free Press: A two-year investigation of the state of the First Nations child welfare system in Manitoba was triggered by the tragic death of a five-year-old girl who had been starved, beaten and tortured. The Free Press found that the agency responsible for protecting her did not know she was missing until nine months after her death. The legislation that established the First Nations child welfare system failed to require that child safety must by the primary consideration in placing children in care. During the investigation another child in care was killed. The agency fought back and accused the Free Press of racism and intolerance. Two years after the investigation began, the provincial Child and Family Service Act was amended to make child safety the primary consideration. (Margo Goodhand, Editor of the Free Press, on her newspaper’s two-year investigation)
Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe: An 18-month investigation by the weekly newspaper resulted in the publication of a shocking report of misuse of public funds, illegal political contributions, non-approved and non-verified expense allowances and suspicious international missions by the CEGEP of Saint-Hyacinthe. The abuses included allowing foreign students to study free of cost and sumptuous spending, turning a large surplus into a deficit. As a result of the investigation, the Director General of the college and the Director in charge of students and the international students program were fired. The newspaper’s reports became the basis of a full provincial inquiry by the Auditor General covering all CEGEPS. The recommendations for improved governance at CEGEPs formed an entire chapter of the Auditor General’s 2008-2009 Report. The Department of Education presented “Quebec Law 110”, which changes the governance and fiscal control for all CEGEPs in the province. The independently-owned regional newspaper with a staff of seven was threatened with legal action on three occasions. (Martin Bourassa on the CEGEP controversy – (translated from the French)
The Globe and Mail: A six-month investigation of Canada’s 911 system for handling telephone emergency calls found that outdated technology was being used in Canada while industry and regulators dragged their feet on changes. The story began when a Calgary baby died after an ambulance was mistakenly dispatched to an address in Ontario. The Globe reported that regulators were warned about 72 cases with problems that were similar to the those that led to death of the baby in Calgary but failed to require the proper safeguards. Among the findings was evidence that Canada’s 911 system has lagged behind other countries because of industry infighting and regulatory standoffs. After the investigation the federal government ordered a nation-wide update of the country’s emergency phone system, including technology to locate 911 calls from cell phones. (Globe and Mail reporter Grant Robertson and the 911 investigation)
Michener Award Night Photo Gallery
(Click on photos to Enlarge)
Judges for the 2008 Michener Award:
Russell Mills (Vice President and Chair of Judging), Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Media and Design, Algonquin College in Ottawa and former publisher of the Ottawa Citizen; Kim Kierans, Professor and Director of the School of Journalism at the University of Kings College in Halifax and former CBC News reporter and editor; Donna Logan, Professor Emerita and Founding Director of the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia and former Vice President of Regional Broadcasting for the CBC; René Roseberry, former News Editor, Le Nouvelliste, Trois Rivières and President of the Grad Prix des Hebdos du Québec and former Director of Information and Public Relations, Université du Québec; Christopher Waddell, occupant of the Carty Chair in Business and Financial Journalism at Carleton University and former National Editor of The Globe and Mail and Parliamentary Bureau Chief for CBC Television News.
Judges for the 2009 Michener-Deacon Fellowship:
Lindsay Crysler (chair), former managing editor of The Gazette, Montreal, former director journalism department, Concordia University, Montreal; Clinton Archibald, professor of public ethics, St. Paul University, Ottawa; Lynne Van Luven, associate professor of journalism & creative non-fiction, University of Victoria; Erin Steuter, chair of the sociology department, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB; Professor Marc Raboy, Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications, McGill University.
The Michener Award is the only Canadian journalism award bearing the name of a Governor General and it is won by the news organization rather than individual journalists. The Award is presented annually for journalism that makes a significant impact on the public good.