Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald awarded 2014 Canadian Hillman Prize in Journalism for "Fatal Care," an extensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of children while under provincial care

La Presse and Vancouver Province are honourable mentions

TORONTO, March 11, 2014 /CNW/ - The Sidney Hillman Foundation judges have awarded the 2014 Canadian Hillman Prize to Karen Kleiss from the Edmonton Journal and Darcy Henton from the Calgary Herald for their persistent investigation into the deaths of children while in provincial foster care.

The six part series revealed that over the last 14 years, 145 children most of whom were aboriginal, have died while in Alberta's care, almost three times the number that had been publicly reported. Following a four-year legal battle to gain access to the death records, the reporters discovered that children who had been placed in foster care to be safe had suffocated in bed, committed suicide or succumbed to disease and the Alberta government had underreported these numbers. A third of the children who died in care were babies, another third were teenagers. Since the series was published, Alberta has changed its policy on death records and held a two-day roundtable on child welfare reform. The Human Services Minister has vowed to lift the province's publication ban with a legal amendment this spring.

"This series turns a spotlight on a very dark room where the most vulnerable in the province were left on their own," said Tony Burman, former head of CBC News and the Al Jazeera English network who now teaches at Ryerson's School of Journalism, speaking for the judges. "While the investigation continues, Fatal Care kicked opened a door that had been locked because too many people in power felt that it better served their interests to keep this information secret, with little regard to the interests of the victims."

This year the judges also chose two honourable mentions. "Roads that Kill" is a powerful, original series produced by La Presse in Montreal. The team used freedom of information laws to gather raw data, studied it, charted it on maps, and brought in engineers, urban planners and a racecar driver to help explain why there were so many serious accidents on Quebec roads and highways.  The journalists discovered that it was not drivers - but design flaws in construction - that created inherently dangerous intersections, ramps and roads, and which caused much of the carnage. Confronted with so much damning information, the government promised to take action.

The second honourable mention is Racism in Paradise, a series produced by The Province in Vancouver. Editors identified a growing undercurrent of racism in Greater Vancouver where new immigrants have become the majority in communities that were predominantly white. The paper dedicated almost a quarter of its newsroom to reporting on the racism faced by some and the white anxiety experienced by others. The series led to unprecedented community engagement and dialogue which encouraged people to rethink their attitudes and look for ways to mitigate the racism and tension.

The submissions were judged by a distinguished panel of Canadian judges including Burman, Fiona Reid, acclaimed theatre actress and Vice President of the Actors' Fund of Canada and Bonnie Brown, a journalist who has worked as a television documentary producer and radio news producer at CBC for 15 years.

Since 1950, the Sidney Hillman Foundation has honoured journalists, writers and public figures who pursue social justice and public policy for the common good. Sidney Hillman was the founding president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, a predecessor union of Workers United, SEIU. Sidney Hillman, an architect of the New Deal, fought to build a vibrant union movement extending beyond the shop floor to all aspects of working peoples' lives. 

"There were more than 20 amazing submissions this year from across the country, in English and French, that reminded us just how important journalism is when it comes to investigating the real harm that comes from inaction, or secrecy," said Alex Dagg, Director of Operations at the National Hockey League Players Association, and a Director of the Hillman Foundation. "We are so pleased and proud that we have the Canadian Hillman Prize to recognize these hardworking, tenacious journalists who push aside the secrecy barriers to bring us stories of injustice that result in real change."

Links to these stories can be found here.

The awards ceremony and reception will be held in Toronto on Tuesday March 18. The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald reporters will share $3,000 and travel to New York City to participate in the U.S. Hillman Prize ceremony to be held May 6, 2014. The two honourable mentions will each receive $1,000.

For more information, and to see past winners, please visit the website at www.hillmanfoundation.org

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