TVO documentary on migrant workers wins 2017 Canadian Hillman Prize

The Toronto Star and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network earn honourable mentions

TORONTO, March 21, 2017 /CNW/ - The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today it has awarded the 7th annual Canadian Hillman Prize to TVO for the groundbreaking documentary "Migrant Dreams." Min Sook Lee, the director, writer, and co-producer uses this film to explore the lives of migrant agricultural workers in Canada, bringing national attention and urgency to those who come to this country with hopes and dreams, yet end up being manipulated and exploited.

Judges Bonnie Brown, Tony Burman and Armine Yalnizyan, prominent Canadians with decades of journalism and public policy experience, selected the winner for its sobering depiction of the long-standing injustices facing farm workers in Ontario.  Told through the experiences of migrant women from Indonesia, and the tenacious legal aid and union organizers advocating for them, the film exposes the entrenched government structure that facilitates the exploitation of vulnerable workers, and which is proven ripe for abuse by unscrupulous recruiters and companies for personal and corporate profit. 

By winning the trust of these brave women, and telling their stories, Lee's work has led to legislative changes in the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and recorded the evidence that led to the criminal conviction of a recruiter, and landmark civil compensation for victims of wage theft and illegal fees.

"Canadians take great pride in opening their doors to Syrian refugees, and to those now crossing dangerously across our southern border. But the failure to address the dire conditions and precarious plight of those we invite here to work in our fields, greenhouses and packaging plants is a pernicious stain on this country's human rights record," said Bonnie Brown. "Migrant Dreams is a wake-up call to all of us, to stand up for the rights of foreign workers to be treated justly and fairly when they're on Canadian soil."

The Hillman judges recognized the Toronto Star and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) with honourable mentions for outstanding journalism.  The Star series, "A Workers' Compensation System in Crisis," written by Sara Mojtehedzadeh, examines the quiet dismantling of Ontario's worker compensation system. The series resulted in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board reviewing its drug policies and its treatment of mentally ill workers. APTN investigative journalist, Jorge Barrera, showcased the devastating failure of the justice system when it convicted and imprisoned Connie Oakes, an innocent Cree woman, for second-degree murder in Medicine Hat, Alberta. His investigation, "Quest for Innocence," led to a focus on the justice system and eventually to Oakes' release from prison.

"Canadian journalists have always been at the forefront of investigative journalism and now it is more important than ever that we continue to deliver this high-quality, trustworthy reporting to Canadians and people abroad," said Alex Dagg, Canadian Board Member of the Hillman Foundation and Airbnb's Director of Canadian Public Policy. "From large news organizations to small, independent newsrooms, we had more entries this year than ever before and the body of work we saw was simply outstanding."

The recipients of the 2017 Canadian Hillman Prize and honourable mentions will be honoured at a ceremony in Toronto on March 30, 2017.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation honours excellence in journalism in service of the common good. The U.S Hillman Prizes have been awarded annually since 1950 and the Canadian Hillman Prize since 2011.

SOURCE Sidney Hillman Foundation

For further information: For more information including event information, please contact: Courtney Radic: 416-427-5041 or

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