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Ottawa dismantled its early warning pandemic system and left the country under-informed and ill-prepared for COVID-19.

Illustration by The Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail investigative reporter Grant Robertson has been named one of six finalists for the 2020 Michener Award for distinguished public service journalism for his examination into how the dismantling of Canada’s early warning pandemic system left the country under-informed and ill-prepared for COVID-19.

Judges of the prestigious award nominated Mr. Robertson’s project Silenced, noting his skillful reporting exposed how the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, a branch of the Public Health Agency of Canada, was undone through a series of critical government missteps, including the removal of the country’s once lightning-fast alert system.

The revelations, the foundation said in a news release, “had an immediate impact.”

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“Canada’s auditor-general ordered an investigation. The federal health minister established a review. Top officials at the Public Health Agency were replaced,” the foundation said. Most importantly, the system was restarted.

This year’s other nominees include APTN for Death by Neglect, a searing investigation into what led 12-year-old Sacha Raven Bob to die by suicide. Work by Kenneth Jackson and Cullen Crozier revealed how the Ontario First Nations child welfare system failed young Sacha and other Indigenous children.

CBC News journalists Ashley Burke and Kristen Everson are nominated for Inside Rideau Hall, a look into the toxic work environment that employees allege was perpetuated by former governor-general Julie Payette.

Health reporter Aaron Derfel of the Montreal Gazette is nominated for his work in exposing the horrific living conditions inside a private nursing home in Dorval and shining a spotlight on the plight of Canada’s institutionalized elderly.

La Presse journalists Gabrielle Duchaine and Caroline Touzin are being recognized for their series The Other Epidemic, which exposed how cases of internet sexual exploitation of children have increased at an unprecedented rate this year and overburdened an already strained justice system.

The Winnipeg Free Press is nominated for A Stain on Our Game, a six-part series by reporter Jeff Hamilton that revealed new evidence against former junior hockey coach and convicted sexual abuser Graham James and showed the complicity of team and league management when they turned a blind eye to his abuse.

“The Michener Awards are Canadian journalism’s highest honour,” said Michener Foundation president Pierre-Paul Noreau in a statement. “All six of these finalists are to be congratulated for their dedication to truth, social justice, and public service in a challenging year.”

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Michener Awards, considered to be Canada’s premier journalism awards. Established in 1970 by Roland Michener, governor-general from 1967 to 1974, the awards honour excellence in Canadian public service journalism. The judges’ decisions consider the degree of public benefit generated by the stories. Due to the pandemic, the Michener Awards ceremony will be conducted virtually in June.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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