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Canada’s National Observer landed two prizes at the annual awards ceremony for the Canadian Association of Journalists on Saturday night. National Observer took home wins in the data journalism and human rights reporting categories.
Human rights award
National Observer reporter Emma McIntosh and now Global News reporter Mike De Souza won the human rights reporting award for coverage of the oilsands plant leak in Fort McKay, Alta.
McIntosh, then a reporter for the Star Calgary and De Souza, then managing editor of the National Observer, investigated the failure of authorities to alert the town of Fort McKay for nearly 12 hours following a leak of toxins released by the petrochemicals, which could pose possible long-term health risks to residents.
Acknowledging the award, McIntosh said: "At a time when governments, including the Alberta government, are rolling back environmental protections, I think this story is more important than ever. We found the environmental protections in place were not enough to protect the rights of people living nearby the oilsands. Now, thanks to COVID-19, those already scant protections have been diminished. I hope this reminds governments they need to be doing more and better."
The story was part of a larger media collaborative series called Price of Oil. McIntosh said: "This story was only possible because of the efforts of media organizations working together. It would not have come to light the way that it did if either Mike De Souza or I had worked on our own." McIntosh applauded the whistleblowers who made this story possible.
Data journalism award
Canada’s National Observer was also one of 10 media organizations recognized for the data journalism award for the Tainted Water series, a year-long investigation into lead levels in drinking water in 11 cities across Canada.
The investigation found hundreds of Canadians were consuming tap water laced with high levels of lead leaching from aging and deteriorating infrastructure.
The media and academic collaboration, run by the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University, involved the work of more than 120 reporters and nine universities, along with the 10 media organizations, including the Toronto Star, Global News, Le Devoir, and the Regina Leader-Post, as well as the National Observer.