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A Radio-Canada billboard next to its building on June 5, 2013 in Montreal.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Société Radio-Canada's Enquête program has won the 2015 Michener Award for revealing repeated physical and sexual abuse of vulnerable indigenous women by local police officers in Val d'Or, Que.

The prestigious prize is awarded annually to recognize and reward excellence in public service journalism on any platform, with an emphasis on the work's impact and benefit to the public.

Enquête prevailed among a group of six nominees, which also included The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Toronto Star, and New Brunswick's Telegraph-Journal.

Radio-Canada's weekly investigative program began its inquiry into the disappearance of one woman, Sindy Ruperthouse, but as her friends began to share experiences of abuse, Enquête's reporting soon widened to encompass a series of graphic allegations of physical and sexual misconduct by members of the local Sûreté du Québec, including police officers paying for sex.

"Within weeks of the broadcast, the Quebec government appointed an independent observer and ordered a police investigation, eight officers were put on leave or transferred to desk duty, the province committed $6 million for programs to help aboriginal women in Val D'Or, and Sûreté du Québec resumed its investigation into Ms. Ruperthouse's disappearance," the Michener Awards Foundation said in a citation.

The finalists were celebrated in a ceremony at Rideau Hall, hosted by Governor General David Johnston, on Friday evening. The award, founded in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, who was Governor General at the time, is considered among the highest honours in Canadian journalism.

The Globe received two separate nominations for its work: A series of stories by reporters Robyn Doolittle, Karen Howlett and Greg McArthur investigating conflicts of interest in the tendering process and awarding of contracts for an expansion of Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, which led to dismissals, formal investigations, and the discovery of similar conflicts around other hospital construction projects in Markham, Ont. and Ottawa; and a joint recognition with the CBC and Star for the three news outlets' investigative work shedding light on the identities and stories of more than 1,100 missing and murdered indigenous women. This journalism provided deep and detailed information and analysis, informing a national discourse about the need for action and answers.

"It is a rare honour to receive two nominations in one year for the Michener," said David Walmsley, The Globe's editor-in-chief. "The award was created by a Governor-General who lost his daughter to a tragedy and he asked journalists everywhere to close policy loopholes so Canada improves the lives of all her citizens in perpetuity. That was an important request 46 years ago and The Globe and Mail will continue to answer the call in the years ahead."

A panel of five judges, all with extensive backgrounds in journalism, chose the 2015 winner.

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