The Michener Awards Foundation announced six finalists for meritorious public service journalism.

The finalists are: Enquête; The Coast; Postmedia News and Ottawa CitizenLa PresseToronto Star; and Vancouver Sun. The winner will be announced on June 18 at the Michener Awards ceremony hosted at Rideau Hall in Ottawa by the David Johnston, the governor general of Canada.

Here is a description of the finalists, according to the press release:

Enquête

CBC’s Investigative Unit and Enquête demonstrated links between industry funding and “independent” research that had downplayed the health risks of asbestos mining in Canada to support a “safe use” policy of continued exports to Third World countries. The compelling series forced government finally to act on a serious public health issue. The newly elected PQ government rejected a proposal to re-open a Quebec asbestos mine. Ottawa withdrew its opposition to putting warnings on asbestos exports, Saskatchewan created an asbestos registry of government buildings, and the asbestos lobby, the Chrysotile Institute, closed.

The Coast

In the lead up to the 2012 municipal election, the investigation by The Coast, an independent alternative weekly newspaper, revealed that Halifax’s popular three-term mayor had taken more than $160,000 from an estate of which he was the executor. More than seven years after the death of Mary Thibault, Peter Kelly had not dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and her heirs. The impact of this exemplary reporting was immediate: Mayor Kelly chose not to seek re-election, which changed the focus of the election campaign.

Postmedia News and The Ottawa Citizen

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The detailed and sustained reporting exposed the use of “robocalls” to mislead and harass voters during the 2011 federal election campaign. The coverage shed light on how technology can subvert our most fundamental democratic value: the right to vote in a fairly run election. The impact has been resounding: Elections Canada is investigating a deluge of complaints about calls sending voters to non-existent polling stations; a Federal Court ruling is pending on a legal challenge to overturn results in six ridings; charges were laid against a PC campaign worker.

La Presse

The death of a young woman led to this investigation into the business of miracle cures in Quebec. The multimedia inquiry tracks the tentacles of these healers in hospitals and schools, exposing fraudulent receipts for insurance claims and tax receipts, and few prosecutions. The series shocked the medical community into action. The Association of Psychologists and the Quebec College of Physicians launched inquiries into these fake healers. The College has asked the Ministry of Justice to enact laws to prosecute such charlatans.

The Toronto Star

The autism project turned the spotlight on the failure of Ontario’s health and social policies to address the challenges faced at different stages of life by those with autism. The comprehensive series looked at all facets of the issue – from groundbreaking scientific research to the heartbreaking stories of young people, homeless or in jail due to the severe shortage of services and funding. The series sparked an intense debate and put questions about treatment squarely on the political agenda. The province is reviewing children’s services and looking at ways to bridge gaps for young adults.

The Vancouver Sun

Catastrophic explosions that killed four workers at two northern B.C. sawmills led The Sun to investigate gaps in public safety concerning the risk of wood-dust explosions. Using inspection records from WorkSafeBC, the provincial fire commissioner and local fire departments, The Sun created databases to analyze the documents. They found that frequently wood dust was involved in fires and that fire-code inspections were lax. The impact was swift. The B.C. government created a program to reduce the risk of dust explosions, and major forest companies promised an independent audit of dust levels.

 

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.