The Michener Awards Foundation today announced the finalists for the 2022 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism: CBC News Saskatchewan, The Eastern Graphic, The Toronto Star, Radio-Canada and The Globe and Mail.
“These Michener Awards finalists can and should be proud. They demonstrate yet again this year the profound and positive impact of quality journalism in Canada, often while defending the interests of our most vulnerable,” said Michener Foundation President Pierre-Paul Noreau.
The Michener Award was founded in 1971 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 stories submitted for consideration.
Chief judge Margo Goodhand said the quality of submissions was unusually high this year; an impressive body of work from newsrooms across Canada.
Here are the 2022 finalists:
CBC Saskatchewan: Disputed History
For more than three decades, renowned scholar and former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond built a prominent career while claiming to be a treaty Indian of Cree ancestry. Highly successful and honoured as an Indigenous person, she claimed she was born and raised in a dysfunctional and abusive home on a Manitoba reserve. Geoff Leo’s in-depth CBC investigation cast doubt on her ancestry and many of her claimed accomplishments. CBC found that her parents were European, and she had actually grown up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, not on a northern reserve. In addition, CBC uncovered multiple significant inaccuracies in her academic claims. Sarah Eaton, a leading academic integrity expert, called this series “a watershed moment for Canadian higher education,” as all 11 universities that granted Turpel-Lafond honorary doctorates committed to reviewing her status. Three rescinded honourary degrees awarded to Turpel-Lafond, and she has so far voluntarily returned degrees conferred by two post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. “It would not surprise me if every single university in Canada that grants honorary degrees conducts a complete review of their processes around how they confer such degrees as a result of Mr. Leo’s coverage of this case,” Eaton said. In light of this story, the Indigenous Women’s collective has called on the Governor General to revoke Turpel-Lafond’s 2021 Order of Canada.
The Globe and Mail: Hockey Canada’s Secret Funds
It is our game, binding the country with pride in its unchallenged images of toughness, finesse, and international glory. Its players achieve mythic status in our pantheon of local heroes. So when TSN revealed that Hockey Canada had quietly settled a lawsuit filed by a woman claiming she had been sexually assaulted by members of Canada’s 2018 gold-medal winning World Juniors team, there was a collective national intake of breath. And the Globe and Mail launched its own investigation, following the money. This series’ first bombshell revealed that Hockey Canada had been secretly using registration fees — collected from Canadian parents over decades — to settle millions of dollars of sexual assault claims, never disclosing to parents or players how their money was being used. The practice had systematically kept rape allegations out of the public eye for decades. As Hockey Canada stonewalled and misled to protect its system of management and finances, the Globe kept reporting, and its impact was profound: a refocused inquiry, the exit of Hockey Canada’s CEO and resignation of its entire board, the kickstarting of a stalled police investigation; and ultimately, the reshaping of Hockey Canada for years to come. Because it was never really about hockey. It was about how the game was played.
The Eastern Graphic: Through the Cracks
A tiny news operation took on a huge social issue, and an entire province sat up and took notice. The Eastern Graphic put a face on a public-health crisis in Prince Edward Island by talking to those most affected by it: people struggling with severe addiction, mental-health issues and homelessness, and those working to help them. The Graphic discovered underfunding and dysfunction in services for these extremely vulnerable Islanders. The impact of this ambitious year-long investigation was felt immediately and at the highest levels: hours after the publication of the series’ first instalment, the province’s premier announced in the legislature that the government would fix its broken system for opioid and alcohol addictions treatment. Shortly thereafter, P.E.I. became the first province in Canada to fully fund such treatment. Premier Dennis King has declared that without the Eastern Graphic’s reporting, this might never have happened. The series also expedited the opening of an emergency homeless shelter. In another consequential result, the province’s justice minister quietly sat in a talking circle with a Mi’kmaq man challenged throughout his life with schizophrenia, violence and addiction, whose wrongful imprisonment had been reported by the Graphic. The minister listened, and then, in a move unprecedented in Island history, he apologized.
The Globe and Mail: Who failed Traevon?
“Died in care.” It’s a phrase that mocks the very system intended to provide a safe place for young people at risk. Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux died in care, by suicide, at 17. He was found dead in his bedroom closet at the Indigenous-centred facility where he’d been living for nine months. Staff had failed to find his body or see the suicide notes left by his bed. Moved by Traevon’s story, reporter Nancy Macdonald embarked on a master class of investigative reporting, spending weeks trying to discover what had gone so wrong for the teenager. Her investigation revealed an appalling array of failures, from untrained staff workers, to the agency meant to care for Traevon and other traumatized Indigenous youth, and to the B.C. government for its lack of oversight. Though Traevon died in 2020, a public inquest was called into his death less than one week after this investigation was published in 2022. In response to one of the inquest’s many recommendations, B.C. Premier David Eby announced his government would phase out group homes in the foster child system. With dogged and sensitive reporting, Macdonald exposed the fatal flaws in a system that utterly failed Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux.
Radio-Canada: Arsenic, secrecy and health: the saga of the Horne Foundry
In the spring of 2022, Radio-Canada published a series of revelations about Canada’s only copper smelter in Rouyn-Noranda. First, that the rate of lung cancer and lung disease in local residents is up to 50% higher than elsewhere in Quebec; then that the province knowingly withheld this information for years. The smokestacks of the Horne Foundry, owned by Swiss multinational Glencore, release tens of tonnes of known carcinogens annually at concentrations exceeding more than 30 times the maximum standards, and this with total impunity under a special authorization from the province. In July and August, relying on both public and confidential documents, Radio-Canada revealed that the foundry’s reactors are fuelled by hundreds of thousands of tonnes of industrial waste — from as far away as Russia, Brazil or Asia — which release four tons of metals and particles into the atmosphere every day, contaminating the air and land up to 50 kilometres away. This series prompted Quebec to hold public hearings, tighten arsenic emission standards and force the multinational to decontaminate the surrounding soils. In early 2023, Glencore announced a $500 million upgrade to the smelter, plus plans to relocate an entire neighbourhood, trapped in the shadow of its smokestacks.
The Toronto Star: Unchartered
When judges in Canada must exclude key evidence, or throw out charges because police have violated the accused person’s charter rights, how are police held accountable? How do they learn from their mistakes? Too often they don’t, according to this project by the Toronto Star. The Unchartered series reveals a growing problem of serious Charter violations by police, and systemic failures which ensure the mistakes are not corrected. Through painstaking reporting The Star’s Rachel Mendleson and the Hamilton Spectator’s Steve Buist built a database of 600 serious Charter breach cases from the last decade. They uncovered more than 100 incidents of police misconduct cited by judges, including illegal body searches and degrading treatment while in custody, misconduct that the officers’ own police services did not know about. The Star revealed that in most provinces and territories, no formal system ensures police forces or even the officers involved are notified when a judge cites Charter violations as reason for reducing a sentence, excluding key evidence or tossing charges altogether. Unchartered pushed police forces from Toronto to Saskatchewan to initiate internal investigations of officer conduct and to review internal policies to ensure police are informed when charter violations are a factor in court decisions.
Last week, the Michener Awards Foundation announced its 2023 Michener-Deacon Fellowship has been awarded to Molly Thomas for her investigative project “Afghanistan’s Secret Schools: Version 2.0”; and the Michener-L. Richard O’Hagan Fellowship goes to Sarah Trick and Alanna King to create a new media style guide and curriculum on disabilities.
The Michener Award finalists and winner, along with the fellowship recipients, are traditionally honoured at an annual ceremony at Rideau Hall, hosted by the Governor General of Canada, which ultimately unveils the winner of the prestigious Michener Award for public service journalism in Canada.
This year, after two years of virtual ceremonies due to the global pandemic, the ceremony will be held live at Rideau Hall on June 16, 2023 (date subject to change based on the Governor General’s special responsibilities). At this event hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon Governor General of Canada, all of the Michener Award finalists and winners of the 2021 and 2022 will be celebrated, along with our 2022 and 2023 fellowship recipients.
Finalists for the 2021 Michener Award, announced last fall, were: Global News on military sexual misconduct; Kamloops This Week on municipal spending; CBC Saskatoon and The Globe and Mail on residential schools; CBC News on Peter Nygard; The Globe and Mail on eating disorders in amateur athletics; CBC Saskatchewan on academia and identity.
Judges for the 2022 Michener Awards:
- Chief judge Margo Goodhand: former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press and the Edmonton Journal
- Guy Gendron: former ombudsman 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
- Jim Compton: Producer at Rising Day Media, formerly of CHUM-TV and APTN
- Mary McGuire: retired journalism professor at Carleton University
About the Michener Awards
The Michener Awards honour, celebrate, and promote excellence in Canadian public service journalism. Established in 1970 by the late Right Honourable Roland Michener, Governor General of Canada from 1967 to 1974, the Michener Awards are Canada’s premier journalism award. The Michener Awards Foundation’s voluntary Board of Directors administers the award, in partnership with the Rideau Hall Foundation, with support from our Sponsors. Learn more at www.MichenerAwards.ca.