Ottawa Citizen, Postmedia News awarded 2013 Canadian Hillman Prize in Journalism for investigation of robocalls and voter suppression in 2011 federal election

Victoria Times-Colonist and Edmonton Journal receive honourable mentions

TORONTO, March 18, 2013 /CNW/ - The Sidney Hillman Foundation judges have awarded the 2013 Canadian Hillman Prize to Glen McGregor (Ottawa Citizen) and Stephen Maher (Postmedia News) for their investigative reporting on the use of robocalls to disrupt and suppress voting during the 2011 federal election.

These two reporters followed up on reports that on and before Election Day, voters across Canada received misleading telephone calls, some that rudely impersonated Liberal callers, others telling them to go to the wrong polling station. They conducted hundreds of interviews with candidates, campaign workers, and election officials about their experiences and compiled the results. They discovered that Elections Canada was investigating a call in Guelph, Ont. Taken together, their research and analysis produced a pattern that suggested there was an attempt to suppress votes by denying voters their most fundamental right in a democracy, their franchise.

The reporting by McGregor and Maher led to investigations by other reporters. More than 40,000 people contacted Elections Canada to express concern about the calls; others took to the streets to protest what they saw as interference with their vote. Elections Canada continues to investigate the calls and a citizen-advocacy group, The Council of Canadians, is asking a Federal Court judge to overturn the results in six closely contested ridings. Legislation has been promised (but not introduced) that would control dirty political calls.

"This was reporting that spoke to the very heart of our democracy," said Jim Stanford, one of the Canadian Hillman Prize judges. "The persistence of these two investigative reporters, in the face of stonewalling by both political operatives and Elections Canada, was exceptional. This was a story that those involved never wanted to come to light - yet it did."

The 2013 Canadian Hillman Prize is given to one reported piece or series produced, published, broadcast or exhibited in 2012. The prize honours journalists who seek out stories that change lives, whose work identifies important social and economic issues and helps bring about change for the better, even as support for serious journalism declines.

This year the judges also recognized with an Honourable Mention two other journalists: the Times Colonist's, Katie DeRosa and her Special Report: An investigation of Canada's refugee policy, seen through the experience of Tamils, and the Edmonton Journal's Elise Stolte who produced Why aren't First Nations kids in schools?, a series that adds up for the first time how many "ghost children" on the reserves have fallen through the cracks, missing out on the advantages that education can provide.

The submissions were judged by a distinguished panel of Canadian judges: Jim Stanford, Economist with the Canadian Auto Workers, Canada's largest private-sector trade union and columnist for the Globe and Mail; Bronwyn Drainie, editor-in-chief of the Literary Review of Canada; and Brian Topp, partner in Kool, Topp & Guy Public Affairs and until recently Executive Director and CEO of ACTRA Toronto, a professional union representing performers in the film and television industry.

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. 

"This year we exceeded our expectations, receiving 46 amazing entries from media outlets large and small across the country," said Alex Dagg, Director of Operations at the National Hockey League Players Association, and a Director of the Hillman Foundation. "While there can only be one winner, Canadians are well served by the excellent quality of investigative reporting that abounds in this country."

The exceptional investigative work submitted covered a wide range of important subjects from the explosive reporting on corruption in the Quebec construction sector, to an exposé of abuse in BC of the federal temporary foreign workers program, to a series about the lawyers who mishandled compensation claims by residential school survivors. Links to these and other stories reviewed by the judges can be found here.

The awards ceremony will be held in Toronto on March 19. They will share $5,000 and travel to New York City to participate in the U.S. Hillman Prizes ceremony to be held May 7, 2013.

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

SOURCE: Sidney Hillman Foundation

For further information:

Media please contact:
Annie Hennessey
annie.hennessey@mediaprofile.com or 416 342-1815

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