The Michener Awards Foundation today announced the finalists for the 2019 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism.

This year’s finalists are: The Globe and Mail; CBC News; The London Free Press; The Halifax Examiner; La Presse; and the Institute for Investigative Journalism.

“Newsrooms across this country are facing their greatest challenge ever this year,” said Michener Foundation President Pierre-Paul Noreau. “Yet local news has never been more critical. We applaud all Canadian newsrooms for their passion and dedication, and thank these finalists in particular for their outstanding public service.”

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Michener Award was founded in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, then governor general, to honour 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 this year’s submissions represented public service journalism at its finest.

Here are the 2019 finalists:

CBC News — Shattered Trust: Sexual Offences in Amateur Sport

Twenty years ago, Canadians were shocked by the story of Graham James, a junior hockey coach convicted of sexually abusing his players. But how much has changed for vulnerable young athletes? In this investigation, CBC News found that over the past two decades more than 600 minors in 36 sports across Canada have been victims of sexual crimes, and that more than 200 coaches have been convicted of sexual offences against a minor. The reporting led to a new national zero-tolerance abuse policy and toll-free helpline, a federal study into abuse in sport, and development of a coaches’ code of conduct.

Halifax Examiner — The Wrongful Conviction of Glen Assoun

When convicted murderer Glen Assoun was freed from prison on a rare court-ordered release, The Halifax Examiner’s Tim Bousquet wanted to know why. During a five-year odyssey, in a dogged and sometimes solitary pursuit to uncover the truth, Bousquet fought to get documents unsealed and to shine light into a dark corner of the legal process. His work helped reveal grave police misconduct in the original investigation. Assoun was granted a new trial and exonerated. And the federal government changed its policy regarding applications for wrongful convictions. This is what journalism can do: it can right a wrong; it can transform a life.

La Presse — Dirty Business

One October morning in 2016, reporter Vincent Larouche’s colleague drew his attention to a suicide that had occurred, on the heels of the search warrant of a decontamination business. This narrow lead sparked a long investigation that stretched until now, exposing an industry infiltrated by organized crime and revealing that contractors were routinely — and illegally — dumping contaminated soil. The reporter tracked them relentlessly, and La Presse went to court in order to gain access to search warrants that had been put under seal. This work brought significant changes — not only to the industry itself, but also in municipalities and at provincial legislatures. Quebec and even Ontario have changed their regulations governing this industry.

The London Free Press — We Are The Cops

With a backstory worthy of a movie thriller, the London Free Press revealed the ugly truth about one night at a police station in 2016. The initial story was that a 24-year-old woman had assaulted police. The truth was that a sergeant had assaulted her while other officers watched. Only when her lawyer got the surveillance tape were her charges dropped — and laid, instead, against the sergeant. None of this became public until the Free Press tracked down the victim, her dying lawyer and the video and successfully fought a lawsuit to prevent publication. The series had impact: new “police culture” education, policies for mandatory reporting of officer misconduct, and whistleblower protection.

The Globe and Mail — False Promises

Canada is a promised land for immigrants. But also, as The Globe and Mail discovered, a place where many newcomers are being exploited. For months, reporter Kathy Tomlinson investigated the systematic exploitation of temporary workers and foreign students by corrupt immigration consultants and employers. Her quest took her from the wealthy suburbs of Vancouver to the terrible bus accident that killed 16 young hockey players from Humboldt, Sask. In the wake of this thorough and complex series, Ottawa introduced open work visas to allow foreign nationals facing abuse to switch employers. And a new law was passed allowing more stringent regulation of immigration consultants.

Institute for Investigative Journalism — Tainted Water

(collaborating newsrooms: The Toronto Star, Le Devoir, Regina Leader-Post, Global News, National Observer, Star Halifax/Vancouver/Calgary/Edmonton)

Most Canadians trust that the water from their taps is safe. But the “Tainted Water” project, coordinated by Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism, revealed elevated levels of lead and other contaminants in our drinking water. The IIJ project — a ground-breaking consortium of newsrooms and universities — involved more than 120 journalists in six news organizations; students and faculty from nine post-secondary institutions; and more than 700 FOI requests. Tainted Water had swift impact, with Canada-wide commitments to replace lead pipes and test water more rigorously. More importantly, it represents a new way forward; a new way to produce great public-service journalism.

Last month, the Michener Awards Foundation announced the recipients of the new Michener-L.Richard O’Hagan Educational Fellowship and two Michener-Deacon Investigative Fellowships.

The educational fellowship goes to the J. Source/Canada Press Freedom project, which aims to create a database of violations of press freedom in Canada. The investigative fellowships go to Laura Eggertson for a series on aging out of foster care; and to Marie-Claude Lortie for a project on the use of pesticides in Canadian agriculture.

Each of these fellowships is worth $40,000, plus $5,000 for expenses.

The 2020 Michener fellowship recipients are traditionally honoured at the annual Michener Awards ceremony at Rideau Hall, which for the past two years has been hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada.

This year, the Michener Award winner will be announced in a prerecorded ceremony, available at on December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Judges for the 2019 Michener Awards:

For further information:

Margo Goodhand – Chief Judge; Michener Awards
[email protected]