Aboriginal Peoples Television Network has won the 2020 Michener Award, recognizing distinguished public-service journalism, for its examination into the abuse and suicide of a young Indigenous girl in the care of an Ontario child-welfare agency. It was the news organization’s first win in the Michener Award’s 50-year history.
Death by Neglect, by reporter Kenneth Jackson, details the suicide in 2014 of Sacha Raven Bob, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe girl under the care of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services.
Two of her sisters, Arizona Bob, 21, and Shania Bob, 18, who had both lived in more than 40 family services facilities, had also taken their own lives earlier that year. APTN reported that Weechi-it-te-win repeatedly failed to meet government regulations as Raven Bob’s legal guardian.
“I thought we got to think about these kids that are in care, we got to think about how the pandemic is gonna hit them,” said Mr. Jackson in his acceptance speech, before adding it was important to him to wait and see if care at Weechi-it-te-win would improve after the tragedies, before publishing the story. “And then we realized, multiple years later, things had just maybe gotten worse.”
“We had this death report that no one had ever seen,” said Mr. Jackson, “we had to make sense of it, but also wanted to honour this young girl.”
The award was presented over Zoom by Michener Foundation President Pierre-Paul Noreau, who said the organization is confident it will hold an official, in-person ceremony at Rideau Hall next spring to honour both the 2019 and 2020 Michener Award winners and finalists.
Mr. Noreau said the judges commended Mr. Jackson’s thorough coverage, which helped to spur changes in child welfare in the country.
The Globe and Mail was also nominated for the award for Silenced, an investigation by reporter Grant Robertson. Mr. Robertson exposed how the Canadian government pulled some of its leading scientists away from international pandemic-surveillance duties just months before the coronavirus spread across the world, leaving the country poorly prepared for when the virus reached its shores.
Four other media organizations also received nominations. CBC reporter Ashley Burke wrote on the inside story of Rideau Hall’s toxic workplace culture under former governor-general Julie Payette.
Montreal Gazette reporter Aaron Derfel uncovered the horrifying living conditions, such as lack of food, water and sanitation, at a Dorval senior’s home that led to at least 33 deaths in a COVID-19 outbreak.
La Presse reporter Gabrielle Duchaine was nominated for uncovering a surge in sexual exploitation of teens on the internet during the pandemic.
Winnipeg Free Press reporter Jeff Hamilton wrote on the reckoning in Canadian hockey that didn’t happen, after former hockey coach Graham James was convicted for sexually abusing some of his players.
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