For 40 years, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) has been celebrating the vital role of the media. And on May 5, Ingenium Books got to celebrate along with the Association at the Hyatt Regency in Toronto. The 2017 CAJ awards were announced at the annual gala dinner that night, recognizing Canada’s best investigative journalists and the inspiring stories that mattered in the past year. Award winners were chosen from a whopping 284 entries.
We were invited to attend the weekend conference and awards banquet because I’m a past president of the CAJ. I served on the board of directors from the mid-1990s and as president from 1999 – 2001. There was a 40th anniversary event on Friday May 4 for those with a history and/or interest in the journey of the organization.
Forty years ago a few dedicated journalists banded together to build support for and awareness of the business, social, and economic value of investigative journalism in their newsrooms and the industry about. Nick Fillmore and Henry Aubin were two of those dedicated few who started The Centre for Investigative Journalism, and they were able to join us for the 40th anniversary weekend. We gave them a standing O.
Saturday evening was the awards banquet, and the CAJ had designated a few tables right up front for former presidents, executive directors, and others who have played a key supportive role. So, just like I did in school, I grabbed a seat right up front.
The big winners of the evening were a team from The Globe and Mail. They spent 20 months investigating over 870 police forces throughout Canada to bring readers “Unfounded”, a disturbing look at how claims of sexual assault are handled in the country. Robyn Doolittle, Michael Pereira, Jeremy Agius and Laura Blenkinsop won the CAJ / GlobeNewswire Data Journalism Award for their work. And they also took home the Don McGillivray Award, Canada’s top award recognizing investigative journalism.
The winners in the Open Media category were those involved in“Motherisk”, a joint investigation by CBC News’ The Fifth Estate, CBC Radio’s The Current, and The Toronto Star. Motherisk, a lab in the Hospital for Sick Children, performed tests on strands of hair to provide evidence of drug or alcohol abuse. This was then used by child welfare agencies to make decisions about whether or not to take children away from their families. Many of these tests turned out to be flawed and thousands of families were needlessly separated. Journalists involved in the investigation are: Rachel Mendleson, Lynn McAuley, Jon Ohayon, Anne Marie Jackson, Tania Pereira, Brian Liu, Cameron Tulk, David Schnitman, Fadi Yaacoub, Andrew Bailey, Linda Guerriero, Lynette Fortune, Mark Kelley, Loretta Hicks, Hans Vanderzande, Jim Williamson, Julian Sher, John Chipman, Kathleen Goldhar, Elizabeth Hoath and Susan Ormiston.
Michael Robinson of the Telegraph-journal in Saint John, N.B. won the Community Media category with a story about New Brunswick’s understaffed, underresourced ambulance service.
In the Open Broadcast Feature category, Harvey Cashore, Kimberly Ivany, Gillian Findlay, Loretta Hicks, Frederic Zalac and Martyne Bourdeau of CBC News’ The Fifth Estate won for “The Untouchables”, a look at accounting firm KPMG Canada’s scheme to help wealthy clients evade taxes.
APTN Investigates’ Kathleen Martens, Paul Barnsley and Holly Moore won the Open Broadcast News category. “Truth? Or Reconciliation?” takes a critical look at the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and asks whether the IRSSA has really benefited the survivors of a cruel system that was in place for nearly 120 years.
Dean Stolz of CHEK News in Victoria, B.C. was the winner in the Community Broadcast category. With “Dying with Dignity”, Stolz told the heart-wrenching yet emotionally uplifting story of Ed Ness, a Deep Bay resident who had terminal lung cancer and decided to end his life on his terms and with medical assistance.
The award in the Online Media category went to Geoff Leo of CBC News Saskatchewan for “The China Connection”, a closer look at Brightenview Development International and its connection to a man accused of loan fraud and wanted by the government of China.
Ed Ou won the Photojournalism category with “Children of the poisoned river”, a story he collaborated on with Jody Porter for CBC News. Ou’s photographs show what life is like for the residents of the Grassy Narrows First Nation and the effects of mercury poisoning decades after their water was contaminated by a chemical plant.
CBC News Go Public’s Erica Johnson, James Roberts, Amar Parmar, Dave Pizer and Karen Burgess were the winners in the Scoop category. With “The Big Bank Upsell” they broke the story of the pressure TD Bank employees face to sell products that could put their customers into debt.
Kenneth Jackson of ATPN National News won the Daily Excellence award with a report about three First Nations girls who died in group homes in Ontario over a six-month period. In all three cases, suicide was believed to be the cause of death.
Betty Ann Adam was the winner in the Text Feature category. “How I lost my mother, found my family, recovered my identity” was published by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and is an autobiographical account of having been part of the Sixties Scoop. At the age of three, Adam was taken away from her mother and stripped of her identity as she grew up in a non-native foster home.
APTN Investigates’ Cullen Crozier received the JHR / CAJ Award for Human Rights Reporting for “Against Their Will”, about the sterilization of Indigenous women in hospitals in Saskatoon without proper consent. This one shocked me. When I was the legislature bureau chief in Alberta in the early-mid 1990s, I covered the court case and subsequent victory of Leilani Muir, who won a settlement against the Government of Alberta. At 14 years old, as a ward of the state, Leilani was declared a “moron” and had her fallopian tubes removed to prevent her from producing “defective” children of her own. The government undertook the procedure on Leilani and nearly 3,000 others under the guise of the Sexual Sterilization Act which was in effect between 1928 and 1972. The Alberta government apologized in 1999, and paid out millions to victims. To learn sterilization procedures have been undertaken on some aboriginal women without proper consent is disturbing.
Willow Fiddler of APTN National News won the JHR / CAJ emerging indigenous Journalist Award for a report about Barbara Kentner, a Thunder Bay woman who was walking down the street when a trailer hitch thrown from a passing vehicle struck her. She suffered complications from her injuries and, at the time the story aired in March 2017, she was told she had two weeks to live. Barbara died in July 2017.
The CWA Canada /CAJ Award for Labour Reporting went to Sara Mojtehedzadeh, Brendan Kennedy, Randy Risling, Frances Kelly, Kevin Donovan, Natasha Grzincic, Cameron Tulk, David Schnitman, Erin Nespoli, Andy Bailey, Tania Pereira and Brian Liu of the Toronto Star for “Undercover in Temp Nation”, an investigation into why temporary factory workers are more likely to get hurt on the job.
Kristin Nelson, Josh Bloch and Kathleen Goldhar of CBC Radio’s The Current won the APTN /CAJ Reconciliation Award. They had reported on the story of a police sergeant asking forgiveness for racist comments he had posted online about the death of Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook.
The Student Award of Excellence went to Jolene Rudisuela, Amy Simpson and Lexi Wright of Mount Royal University and the Calgary Journal for “Closing Midfield”, about the controversial closing of a Calgary mobile home park.
Ginella Massa, who broke ground by being Canada’s first hijab-wearing news anchor, was the MC for this inspirational evening.
These inspiring stories, and the talented journalists who tell them, play an important role in democracy today. They shine a light into the dark corners of a Canada we might be forgiven for thinking is otherwise shiny and near-perfect. They reveal the work we have yet to do to realize equality and human rights for all. These inspiring stories show us when the allure of big money sometimes leads to misdeeds, manipulation, or downright law-breaking activity. They show us when our laws aren’t working, or when new laws are needed. They are the mirror that reflects our society back to us.
These inspiring stories need to be told. Traditional journalism and the business models that have supported it are under serious threat from social media, advancing technology, and advertising dollars diverted to online platforms like Google and Facebook. At Ingenium Books we look forward to new partnerships that will help bring inspiring stories like these to new audiences, in new ways, by supporting, promoting and publishing inspiring stories that matter.
If you’re a journalist with a story you’d like to turn into a book, contact us today to begin the conversation.
Boni is co-founder of Ingenium Books and an author, editor, and ghostwriter. She also manages communications and media for the Alliance of Independent Authors. As an award-winning former Canadian television reporter, news anchor, producer, and talk show host, working under the names Boni Fox and Boni Fox Gray, Boni covered politics, government, the economy, health, First Nations, and crime. She won several Canadian Association of Broadcaster (CAB) awards and a Jack Webster Award for best documentary. Boni also held senior management roles in government, leading teams responsible for editorial, issues management, media relations, strategic communications planning. Boni is co-author of Rock Your Business: 26 Essential Lessons to Start, Run, and Grow Your New Business From the Ground Up.
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