Witness the recent spate of awards for work that uncovers malfeasance.
By Sylvia Stead for the Globe and Mail
It has been a banner year for investigative journalism in Canada. Witness the recent spate of awards for work that uncovers malfeasance or shines a light on deeply ingrained societal prejudices and problems.
This is an area where the established media excel – if only because it takes time, often months of investigation, and a real commitment to get beyond the daily news.
Last Friday, the Michener Award for public-service journalism went to an investigation by Enquête, the weekly TV newsmagazine on Radio-Canada, into sexual abuse of indigenous women by provincial police in Val d’Or, Que.
As with most great investigative work, the story started small, as a probe into the disappearance of Sindy Ruperthouse, one of Canada’s many missing and murdered indigenous women.
But as the reporters started talking to her friends, they found quite a different problem. The women told of physical and sexual abuse by police, with allegations that ranged from having been paid for sex to being beaten and dropped outside town in the middle of winter.
The Quebec government appointed an independent observer, ordered a police investigation, and promised millions of dollars to help indigenous women. In all, eight officers were taken off active duty.
“For the first time, these vulnerable and marginalized women overcame fear of retribution, and spoke out,” the Michener Awards Foundation says on its website.
In accepting the award, according to a Globe reporter at Rideau Hall when Governor-General David Johnston presented it, Enquête reporter Josée Dupuis noted that the women in Val d’Or said that they used to walk with their heads down, but now proudly keep their chins up.