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A special investigation by National Observer that uncovered how the federal government rigged its review of a major pipeline project to ensure its approval has been nominated for the Canadian Journalism Foundation Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism.

The investigation focused on the government’s review of scientific evidence and its discussions with First Nations affected by the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project, designed to triple the oil-transporting capacity of an existing pipeline system linking Alberta’s oilsands to the west coast of B.C.

The national award recognizes news organizations that “embody exemplary journalism and have a profound and positive impact on the communities they serve.”

National Observer has been nominated in the award’s small media category for a series of stories published in 2018 that showed the government knowingly violated its duty to consult affected Indigenous communities, and sped up its consultations and its review of the project in response to Kinder Morgan’s lobbying. Managing Editor Mike De Souza began investigating the Trans Mountain story in 2016, meeting with whistleblowers, receiving leaked documents, and surfacing information through access to information legislation.

In the weeks and months after National Observer’s exclusive reports, government officials – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – admitted they had made mistakes in their consultations and committed to improving their efforts to accommodate First Nations.

In the wake of National Observer’s investigation, the government decided not to appeal a court ruling which confirmed they had failed in their constitutional duty to consult and accommodate the affected First Nations.

Other nominees in the small media category include: CBC Indigenous, Regina Leader-Post/Saskatoon StarPhoenix, St. Catharines Standard, and Saint John Telegraph-Journal.

In the large media category, finalists include: CBC News for its Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo podcast, CBC News for its Deadly Force project, The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Toronto Star.

National Observer’s reporters and writers continue to produce excellent journalism in the public interest and it is wonderful to see this fine work honoured by the CJF nomination,” said Linda Solomon Wood, editor-in-chief of National Observer and CEO of Observer Media Group.

Observer Media Group has previously won the CJF Excellence in Journalism award twice, in 2012 and 2014, for its in-depth coverage of corporate influence on government politics.

Founded in 2015, National Observer broke new ground in May 2017 when it became the first digital-only news site ever to win a National Newspaper Award. National Observer won a 2016 investigative reporting award from the Canadian Association of Journalists for De Souza's series on alleged conflicts of interest within Canada's federal pipeline regulator received. His investigation also won a citation for the Michener Awards, one of the highest honours in Canadian journalism. National Observer was the first online-only publication ever to receive a Michener citation of merit.