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Governor-General Julie Payette, right, presents The 2017 Michener Award to reporter Robyn Doolittle and editor-in-chief David Walmsley during a ceremony at Rideau Hall on June 12, 2018 in Ottawa.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail has won the 2017 Michener Award recognizing public-service journalism for its investigation into how Canadian police handle sexual-assault complaints.

Unfounded, a 20-month long project spearheaded by reporter Robyn Doolittle, looked into the way Canadian police handle sexual-assault complaints. Using data gathered from hundreds of police services across the country, the project showed that sexual-assault complaints are twice as likely to be dismissed as unfounded than complaints in other assault cases.

The investigation spurred law-enforcement agencies to review more than 37,000 cases, and some agencies pledged to revamp their approach to policing sexual violence.

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“The judges concurred that this rigorous, in-depth investigation exemplifies the best in public service journalism and the critical value of media in effecting change,” said Alan Allnutt, president of the Michener Awards Foundation.

Globe editor-in-chief David Walmsley called the win a profound honour.

“The global response to this textbook investigation has been astonishing and the connections we have made with the women involved will stay with us always,” he said.

Governor-General Julie Payette presented Ms. Doolittle with the award at Rideau Hall on Tuesday.

In a speech earlier in the evening, Ms. Doolittle said the investigation showed that sexual-assault victims who came forward were not being taken seriously.

“The real way to fix the system is for more people to come forward, and that’s only going to happen if there’s trust in the system,” she said.

The Globe was nominated for three Micheners in all, the only media outlet with multiple nominees for the prestigious prize.

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The others included Tainted, a series by Grant Robertson that exposed how federally licensed medical marijuana was tainted with pesticides. The series forced Health Canada to implement mandatory pesticide testing for all companies in the industry.

Easy Money, a year-long investigation by Grant Robertson and Tom Cardoso, was nominated as well. The analysis of almost 6,000 securities cases across the country found more than $1.1-billion in unpaid fines, underscoring how financial regulators have been ineffective in sanctioning fraudsters and white-collar criminals.

The Vancouver Sun’s Gordon Hoekstra was also nominated for his investigation of the securities sector, revealing how the B.C. Securities Commission has failed to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties.

The other finalists were: Cogeco Media reporters Monic Néron and Émilie Perreault for their reporting on sexual harassment and assault allegations against Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon; CBC Edmonton for its investigative series on Pure North, an alternative health foundation of a Calgary businessman; a Global News team for its exposé on how Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada used faulty and outdated academic research to handle permanent residency applications for people with disabilities and medical conditions; and the Toronto Star for its year-long investigation on companies increasingly turning to temp agencies to cut costs and limit liability for workplace accidents.

The Michener Award was founded in 1970 by then-governor-general Roland Michener.

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