Michener Award finalists announced

The Michener Awards Foundation has announced six finalists for its 2009 award for meritorious public service journalism.

The Foundation recognizes and promotes excellence in Canadian public service journalism. The event will be hosted by Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of
Canada. It takes place on May 27 at Rideau Hall, Ottawa.

A special award will be given posthumously to Michelle Lang, the Calgary Herald reporter who was killed in Afghanistan.

The six finalists are:

La Société Radio-Canada/Canadian Broadcasting

Corporation: Reporting by the program Enquête revealed an unhealthy climate in the construction industry in Quebec, including allegations of criminal acts. The Quebec government refused to call a public inquiry but launched a vast police investigation into bribery and corruption in the industry.  The former general manager of the Quebec Federation of Labour’s construction wing was arrested and charged with filing false documents.

CTV Television

The program W5 carried “Beyond Justice”, an in-depth report into three killings by RCMP officers in British Columbia and the failure of the justice system to hold police accountable.  “Beyond Justice” also questioned the work of RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was not reappointed and later RCMP Commissioner William Elliott announced that the Mounties would no longer investigate themselves in case of death or other matters of public confidence.

The Gazette

A series of articles documented problems with a $355.8-million water-management project, the largest contract in the history of the city of Montreal. The newspaper showed that major elements of the project were altered against the city’s interest days before the contract was closed. After the auditor general confirmed the Gazette’s findings, the contract was killed. Two top city officials were also fired.

The Globe and Mail

Working from a tip, reporter Paul Koring spent months piecing together the story of the Canadian citizen, Abousfian Abdelrazik, who had been denied a passport by Canada and who was sleeping on a cot in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, despite being cleared of wrong-doing by Sudanese officials. A ruling by Federal Court Judge Russell Zinn last June concluded that Canada had not respected Mr. Abdelrazik’s rights and ordered him returned home with 15 days.

National Post

A series of reports revealed that the Crown and police in Ontario were conducting secret background checks of potential jurors in criminal trials. The reports sparked an investigation by the Ontario Privacy Commissioner which showed that one in three Crown offices had engaged in improper background checks. A policy directive by the government ended this practice and the Juries Act is in the process of being amended.

Times Colonist

A series about First Nations housing revealed overcrowding, shoddy construction and threats to health on reserves on Vancouver Island.  This was a major undertaking for a 12-person news team. Following the publication of the articles, the federal government pledged $50 million for native housing. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell also announced that the province would take action to connect reserves with off-reserve water and sewage systems.

“The Michener Award, founded in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, then Governor General, goes to a news organization. The judges’ decisions are heavily influenced by the degree of public benefit generated by the print and broadcast entries submitted.”

“The winner of the Michener-Deacon Fellowship is Julie Ireton, business and technology reporter in the CBC Parliamentary Bureau. Judges agreed that her proposal to pursue an investigation entitled, The Federal Public Service: Middle-men, Double-Dipping and Cronyism, embodies the in-depth news focus the Michener-Deacon Fellowship is designed to support.”

The Foundation was established by the late Right Honourable Roland Michener, Canada’s former Governor General.