Ottawa, November 7, 1986. The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail were co-winners of the 1985 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. The Globe and Mail was honoured for reporting on the special problems of unseen immigrants. The Star received the award for a series on Metro Toronto’s ethnic minorities.
At a Rideau Hall award ceremony hosted by Governor-General Jeanne Sauvé, the awards were accepted by Olivia Ward representing the Star and Victor Malarek representing the Globe and Mail. They were the authors of series which were judged the best of a record 59 entries, rated by the five-member panel of judges as the highest-ever level of quality.
The Governor-General, in presenting the awards, said the recipients had demonstrated a high degree of professionalism, an uncommon sensitivity toward their subject matter and an ability to translate cold facts and warm anecdotes into prose that is interesting, readable, and informative. (the full text)
Her Excellency also paid tribute to former Governor General Roland Michener who was a guest of honour at the ceremony. He was presented with a special Michener Award for his initiative in creating the journalism awards program, which bears his name, and for his support of the Foundation. She congratulated him for “having the foresight and vision to create at least one occasion during the years where we might legitimately applaud the work of our media.” The former Governor General founded the Michener Award in 1970. It honours and celebrates outstanding public service in journalism.
Globe and Mail reporter Victor Malarek focused attention on those immigrants who enter Canada illegally – refugees seeking a safer homeland, as well as refugees and entrepreneurs who enter Canada by promising to make investments.
The three series of stories included:
an examination of the plight of illegal immigrants living underground and their exploitation by lawyers, immigration “consultants” and employers.
a second series dealing with the treatment of illegal immigrants – some claiming refugee status – held at a Toronto area detention centre. The stories revealed that conditions at the centre did not even satisfy United Nations minimum standard rules for treatment of prisoners. The reports led to the release of the detainees to church groups and eventually to closing of the centre.
a third set of stories reporting on the Canadian government program aimed at enticing entrepreneurs as landed immigrants, on condition they make investments creating jobs in the country. Many of the wealthy who hoped to buy their way into the country found themselves victimized by unscrupulous Canadian lawyers and consultants. Others made investment promises they had no intention of keeping. The Canadian government reacted by tightening controls on the entrepreneur program.
The Toronto Star’s eight-part series about the multicultural composition of Toronto’s population was undertaken in the belief that increased knowledge about ethnic minorities dispels prejudice. The stories ran in the Sunday Star.
The series painted a sensitive picture of seven distinct cultural communities and concluded that the city’s multiculturalism isn’t perfect but it works. It was based on three months of exhaustive research, including 1,400 interviews. Reporter Olivia Ward also noted that 56 per cent of Metro residents belonged to minority ethnic groups and she set out to learn why they are under-represented in important jobs. The answer wasn’t simple and she found some surprises along the way.
A booklet containing all eight articles sparked an overwhelming demand for copies from school boards, and community service and research organizations. The series also led to a Star forum on racism and an Ontario ministry of education meeting on the minority theme.
The work of three other newspapers was also recognized at the award ceremony.
Honourable Mention was awarded to the St. Catharines Standard for a series on the implications of a washroom-sex scandal. In January of 1985, the arrests of 32 men on charges of committing sex acts in a public washroom set the stage for the newspaper’s sensitive and intensive investigation of the entire issue. Following the suicide of one of the accused, the police issued the names of all those charged.
Unlike other daily newspapers in the area, The Standard chose not to publish any names at any time because of its concern for the disparity between the legal penalty of conditional discharge and the social penalty. The discovery of a link between the suicide and the arrests turned it into a story of national interest and debate. The impact of the series gave the public a better understanding of homosexual problems, put the charges in perspective and influenced the Niagara Regional Police Commission to halt mass arrests of this type.
The newspaper assigned a team of reporters – Michael Clarkson, Kevin McMahon, Kevin Cavanagh and Doug Herod – to find out not who was involved but the what, why, where, and when of the incidents. The series affected the community emotionally as reflected in the more than 400 phone calls received in the two weeks following publication.
Citations of Merit were presented to:
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record for a series on problems in the agricultural industry affecting the Canadian Dairy Commission, the Farm Credit Corporation and the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency among other farm organizations examined. Jim Romahn, the Record’s agriculture and food writer, led the way in this wide-ranging and detailed investigation. The Kitchener Ontario newspaper has been the winner of 3 Michener Awards since 1978 in addition to this year’s Citation of Merit.
The Calgary Herald for a continuing investigation of firms and people benefitting from the federal government’s scientific research tax credit program which was in effect from October 1983 to December 31, 1985. Two reporters, Bob Beaty and Kaye Dunn spent two years concentrating on research undertaken or proposed by three Alberta firms: Bechtold Resources, Hol-Sims Farms, and Albion Micro-electronics. Their investigation, under threat of libel action by one firm, disclosed the improper use of government funds with little or none going into research. As a result of the reports, Revenue Canada took action to recover a total of $32 million dollars from the 3 companies involved.
Judges for the 1985 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, jury chairman, former Canadian Press executive and now executive secretary of the Ontario Press Council; Bill Boss, former director of public relations at the University of Ottawa; Emery LeBlanc, former editor of L’Evangeline and now director of public relations for Via Rail of Montreal; and William Metcalfe, former managing editor of Winnipeg Free Press and Ottawa Journal; Bob Nielsen, Perth-Andover, N.B.
The Michener Award, founded in 1970 by the late Right Honourable Roland Michener, then Governor General, honours and celebrates outstanding public service in journalism. Entries are judged particularly for their professionalism and their impact on the public. Daily and weekly newspapers, news agencies, radio and television stations and networks and periodicals are eligible.