Chantelle Bellrichard is the recipient of the first CJF Aboriginal Journalism Fellowship.

To everyone who made this possible, a giant hug.

What a privilege. This fellowship was truly an incredible experience.

I knew I was in for a good trip when days after I arrived in Winnipeg a complete stranger offered to lend me a bike for the month. Friendly Manitoba indeed.

Cate made settling into the newsroom and Winnipeg a breeze and then, to quote Tim Gunn [1], it was time to ‘make it work.’

Focus was definitely my biggest challenge in the beginning. I approached the fellowship with the intention of researching/reporting in B.C. But when I thought logistics that I would be working out of Winnipeg I decided to start from scratch and shifted my attention to Manitoba.

Cate and I entertained the idea of me staying in B.C., but I opted to take advantage of the opportunity to live/work/report in a different province for a month. I think this paid off in the end, but it also made for a slow start and some anxiety that I wouldn’t produce enough work to reflect the generosity of this fellowship.

So I busted my butt. And slowly the leads presented themselves and the recorder was out and running. By week two I had a giant, neurotic mindmap put together. With the help of Cate and a couple other brilliant minds in the newsroom, I chose the strongest story threads and started pulling.

Time was the greatest luxury of this fellowship. I knew the voices I needed to pull these stories off, but callbacks didn’t come quickly. There was probably a week of intense research that had me going in six different directions, ready to pounce on whichever story grew legs.

The calls eventually came in and I was off to the races. And by the races I mean, in a rental car driving ten hours north to a remote First Nation. Norway House was an incredible place to visit and the fellowship made it possible to spend a few days there, getting to know the community. This gave me access to people in a way that isn’t possible in a quick turnaround or phone call from the city. I think the relationships I built there will bode well for CBC in the future.

In the end I produced three original stories with content running on all the CBC platforms. I even had a chance to work with the investigative unit, which helped me nail down key accountability interviews with government. Five weeks later I was back home in Vancouver, reflecting on a whirlwind experience that produced dozens of fond memories and three hyperlinks.

First Nations Issues: What will make Canadians care?
Manitoba social psychology researchers have figured out one way to make nonindigenous Canadians more likely to care about First Nations issues.
Published on CBC Aboriginal.

Midwifery program with core Aboriginal mandate halted
The program was meant to train Aboriginal midwives in the north, but now Manitoba’s only midwifery program isn’t training anyone. An investigation into what happened to the kanaciotiniwawasowin midwifery program.
Published on CBC Aboriginal, CBC Manitoba television/radio news, CBC Manitoba Information Radio, Le Telejournal Manitoba. *Story followed by CTV Winnipeg and Maclean’s.

Bringing back birth to remote Manitoba First Nation
Women in a remote Manitoba First Nation are increasingly refusing to be sent south to Winnipeg to give birth. They’re opting to give birth in their community instead, under the care of the province’s only midwife working in a First Nation.
Published on CBC Aboriginal and as a feature story on CBC Radio One’s The World this Weekend.

And that’s all she wrote...

There are still so many stories to pursue, many of which I started scratching at while in Winnipeg. I’d like to think this was just the courting phase of my relationship with CBC Aboriginal. If there’s anything I can do to support the success of this fellowship in the future, I’m all ears. Lastly, and most importantly, Thank you. To everyone who made this possible, from the Canadian Journalism Foundation and the CBC. For all the words of encouragement, for making this fellowship a priority, to the jury who chose me for this opportunity, for inviting me to Toronto to accept this award, for the financial support, for coaching me through my ideas and drafts, for giving me an incredible platform to publish these stories. You’ve given me so much to be grateful for.

Chantelle Bellrichard

1. Yes, I watch Project Runway.