Speech from the presentation of the 2013 Michener Award

Mélanie Béchard
August 20, 2021
A man presents a large award to another man, both in tuxedos.

Parliamentarians, recipients and finalists, Mesdames et Messieurs,

Welcome, all of you, to this presentation of the Michener Award for Journalism at Rideau Hall the home of the people of Canada. More than an appropriate place for this ceremony.

The best journalists are seekers of truth. You pursue stories that are in the public interest, shining a light on the news that matters, not just the news that sells. You hold those in positions of power to account. You expose wrongdoings, waste and inefficiencies. And you do what you can to make this a better country and a more just world.

You deserve our respect, and you have earned it, many times over.

St. Augustine wrote: to know the true nature of a society, look to see what it cherishes. A free and vital press is an essential part of a healthy democracy. Conversely, in countries where journalists struggle to tell basic truths, strife and conflict invariably exist.

As we celebrate your achievements today, let us also remember the many journalists who have been killed, imprisoned, kidnapped, threatened and attacked around the world in pursuit of the public interest.

In Canada, we are fortunate to live in a country where press freedoms are in relative good health. According to the annual World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Canada ranks 18th out of 180 countries, a strong showing which nevertheless leaves us with room for improvement.

All Canadians have a stake in the important work you do as journalists, editors, producers and publishers.

The work of each of this evening’s Michener Award nominees offers a case in point. Your news organizations have driven change in how we care for our children and how we make our communities safe. You have influenced the actions of municipalities and spurred elected representatives to do right by Canadians.

Your subject matter includes business, the environment, global affairs, crime, communities, non-profit organizations, social ills and societal gain. Each story you have told has allowed us to learn more about our present-day reality and to address important issues.

This is what it is to serve the public interest through journalism.

Your achievements are all the more impressive given the many challenges currently facing the news industry. Financial pressures, competition from online sources, the 24/7 news cycle and media concentration all put pressure on the health and diversity of our journalistic voices.

As you well know, there is no simple solution to the rapid and profound transformations taking place. News organizations must innovate and adapt to global realities, and your success in doing so is critical to the well-being of Canadians.

I offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to each of the news teams behind the stories nominated for this year’s Michener Award. I wish you all the very best in your important work.

I wish you all the very best in your important work.


His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston
Governor General of Canada, 2010-2017
Rideau Hall, Ottawa
Wednesday, June 11, 2014