The Sidney Hillman Foundation announces today that the 13th annual Canadian Hillman Prize is awarded to Rachel Mendleson of the Toronto Star and Steve Buist of the Hamilton Spectator for their original and impactful investigation “Unchartered.”
Forty years after the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms set out the limits for acceptable police behavior, Mendleson and Buist’s investigative reporting brought to light for the first time how often those rules are violated. Across the country, they uncovered over 600 reported cases of serious, and sometimes violent police misconduct, from illegal stops, searches, arrests and detention, to denials of individuals’ right to counsel.
“There were many “what??” and “wow!” moments while reading the clear, concise, and revelatory reporting undertaken by Rachel, Steve, and their team,” said judge Garvia Bailey, “The reporting forces us to closely examine how individual rights set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are being repeatedly infringed upon by police across the country. Countless criminal cases are thrown out by the courts, while officers are rarely, if ever, held accountable. The reporting is timely, vital and deserves not only to be read widely, but to be recognized for excellence.”
The Hillman judges also recognized two entries with honourable mentions:
“Profiting Off Kids’’ by Andrew Russell, Carolyn Jarvis, Michael Wrobel of Global News and Kenneth Jackson of APTN exposed the dark side of Ontario’s for-profit foster home system. They reported stories of vulnerable young people locked in squalid homes, sometimes going hungry, while underpaid and underqualified staff overmedicated and violently restrained them. The owners, meanwhile, amassed lavish real-estate portfolios and luxury goods.
Radio-Canada Enquête’s “Recycling’s Dirty Secrets” by reporter, Chantal Lavigne, and producer, Gil Shochat, penetrated the opaque recyclable waste trade. They discovered that mounds of Canadian plastic waste are illegally hidden in containers of paper recycling destined for export. International inspectors catch some shipments and return them to Canada, while others slip through. In destination countries such as India, the reporters exposed how these plastic scraps are often burned, causing environmental pollution and serious health problems in the local population.
“Investigative journalism is a pillar of our democracy that exposes social injustices and calls for greater accountability from our institutions,” said Alex Dagg, Canadian Board Member of the Sidney Hillman Foundation. “This year’s Hillman honourees have done exemplary work demonstrating the importance of investigative reporting in spurring public discourse and holding those in positions of authority to account.”
The Sidney Hillman Foundation will host an in-person event to celebrate the honourees on March 30 at 6pm in Toronto.