Michener Honours go to Société Radio-Canada's Enquête, Freelancer Paul Webster and New York Times's Patti Sonntag

OTTAWA, June 17, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - Société Radio-Canada's Enquête has won the 2015 Michener Award for Abus de la SQ: les femmes brisent le silence, an investigation into ongoing physical and sexual abuse of Indigenous women in Val D'Or, Quebec at the hands of local Sûreté du Québec officers, Russell Mills, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, announced today.

In a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented the coveted Michener Award trophy to Société Radio-Canada's Enquête. The media outlet was among six news organizations honoured at the ceremony. The Michener Award is presented annually for journalism that makes a significant impact on the public good.

The Governor General also presented the 2016 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for investigative reporting to award winning freelance journalist, Paul Webster for his proposal to look into the policy and practices of prison healthcare, specifically the high rate of Hepatitis C among inmates.  

The 2016 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Journalism Education was awarded to Patti Sonntag, managing editor in the New York Times' News Services division. She will be returning home to Montreal to lead a class on an investigation into resource extraction companies. This course aims to lay the foundation for a new data journalism certificate program at Concordia University.

The Michener Award honoured Société Radio-Canada's Enquête for its documentary, Abus de la SQ: les femmes brisent le silence an investigation that started as a search for answers into the disappearance of an Indigenous woman from Val D'Or, Quebec and an inactive police investigation. The story took an unexpected turn when friends of the missing woman, Sindy Ruperthouse, started to share experiences of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of local Sûreté du Québec officers. For the first time these vulnerable and marginalized women overcame fear of retribution and spoke out. Their graphic and detailed allegations included beatings, police officers paying for sex, bullying and "geographic cures" (being dropped off out of town to walk off the alcohol in mid-winter). Within weeks of the broadcast, the Quebec government appointed an independent observer and ordered a police investigation, eight officers were put on leave or transferred to desk duty, the province committed $6 million for programs to help aboriginal women in Val D'Or, and Sûreté du Québec resumed its investigation into Ms. Ruperthouse's disappearance. As a result, other Indigenous women from across Quebec started to share their experiences of ongoing abuse from authorities in their communities.

Michener Citations of Merit were presented to:

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star - Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
The three news outlets are being recognized for their extensive in-depth coverage of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Each outlet investigated and analysed data involving more than 1,100 missing and murdered Indigenous women, bringing to light new information that helped to re-open cold cases, and raise questions about the quality of police investigations and the prevalence of racism in communities across the country. From an interactive database of unsolved cases to a thorough examination of national homicide and long-term missing person cases, these stories put a human face on the victims and their families, exposed the devastation of this violence to Indigenous communities, and reinforced the ongoing demands and need for accountability and action in these cases. The extensive and continuing coverage of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star has provided a forum for a national conversation and will inform the impending public inquiry. 

The Canadian Press - The price of Winnipeg's water: One reserve's manmade misery and its journey toward a Freedom Road
Sustained coverage throughout 2015 by the Canadian Press exposed the human cost of providing water to residents of Winnipeg on the residents of Shoal Lake 40. The TransCanada highway in Manitoba is close yet there was no road access to their community. CP explained how their isolation arose, the damage it was doing to the community and the continuing unwillingness of anyone to resolve the problem. The response was a crowd-funding campaign to build the road, national support from churches, community groups and politicians. CP's continuing coverage forced the issue into last fall's federal election campaign with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pledging to right the historical wrong if elected.  Freedom Road was one of the new government's first announcement after the fall 2015 federal election.

The Globe and Mail - St. Michael's Probes Executive After Role In Fraud Revealed
As governments across the country begin billions of dollars in infrastructure spending on projects in the health care and university sectors, Canadians need the assurance that money is being spent wisely. A Globe and Mail series that examined the tendering process for an expansion of Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital found lack of due diligence and serious conflicts of interest between those responsible for awarding the contracts and the successful bidders. Further, it discovered the key official overseeing the process at St Michael's had previously admitted to writing false invoices while serving as a senior official of Infrastructure Ontario, the provincial agency overseeing infrastructure spending. The Globe series led to dismissals and four forensic investigations at public agencies in the province. Follow-up stories by the Globe and other news organizations discovered similar conflicts of interest and questionable spending practices in hospital construction projects in Markham and Ottawa.

Telegraph-Journal - Day Care Inspections
When the Telegraph-Journal requested inspection records for day care centres in Saint John, the New Brunswick government refused to release them. The newspaper persevered for more than a year before winning access to the records. The data showed a failure on the part of the provincial regulator to adequately enforce cleanliness standards, safety practices and mandatory background checks on employees. The resulting stories prompted the province to hire more inspectors and improve enforcement practices. The Telegraph-Journal continued to find discrepancies between the province's published data and the actual inspection reports obtained through access to information. Once again, the government was forced to acknowledge inadequate inspections and enforcement. It has since promised to build an improved online registry of day care inspections. Thanks to the Telegraph-Journal, parents in New Brunswick will have improved access to more informative inspection records for day care centres across the province.

Toronto Star  - Presumed Guilty 
Police in Canada routinely keep records about citizens who have never been convicted of a crime. Such "non-conviction" records may contain details from a 911 call, a mental-health incident, or an association with someone who happens to be the subject of a police inquiry. An investigation by the Toronto Star found that police frequently release non-conviction information to employers, volunteer agencies, schools and other organizations that request a background check. As a result, innocent people see their careers, reputations and livelihoods needlessly damaged. Bolstered by hard facts and evocative storytelling, the Toronto Star series shone a light on this troubling practice by examining individual cases of those who have been unfairly harmed. Begun in 2014, the series led to a clear and important change in 2015: the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved a new law that restricts and standardizes what police in Ontario can and cannot release in background checks.

Judges for the 2015 Michener Awards:
Kim Kierans (chair), Professor of the School of Journalism and Vice-President at University of King's College in Halifax and former CBC news reporter and editor; Kevin Crowley, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University and former Business Editor with the Waterloo Region Record; Claude Papineau, former Vice-President for French Services of The Canadian Press and former Parliamentary Correspondent; Christopher Waddell, Professor and former Director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and former National Editor of The Globe and Mail and Parliamentary Bureau Chief for CBC Television News, and Mary Lynn Young, Associate Dean at UBC's Faculty of Arts, former director at UBC School of Journalism.

Judges for the 2016 Michener-Deacon Fellowships:                                    
Susan Mitton (chair), former Regional Director, CBC Maritimes; Michael Goldbloom, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Quebec, and former Publisher of The Gazette and the Toronto Star; Sylvain Lafrance, Professor of Business at Haute Etudes Commercial in Montreal, and former Vice President of Radio Canada; Donna Logan, Professor Emerita and Founding Director of the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia and former Vice President of Regional Broadcasting for the CBC; and Ivor Shapiro, Chair, Ryerson School of Journalism, Toronto.

Web sites:


SOURCE Michener Awards Foundation

For further information: Kim Kierans, (902) 422-1271 ext. 164, e-mail: kim.kierans@ukings.ca; Marie-Êve Létourneau, Rideau Hall Press Office, (613) 998-0287, marie-eve.letourneau@gg.ca


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