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Amnesty International Canada’s 2012 Media Awards

    December 20, 2012

    Reports about drug addiction in Aboriginal communities, children born of war,
    the plight of Roma, and exploitation of residential school survivors
    -  winners of Amnesty International Canada’s 2012 Media Awards

    The ravages of prescription drug addiction in First Nations communities, the pain and trauma of children born of war, the flight from discrimination of Roma now safely living in Canada, and the exploitation of residential school survivors are all explored in excellent pieces of journalism. They were recognized today as winners of Amnesty International Canada’s eighteenth annual Media Awards for outstanding reporting about human rights issues in the Canadian media.

    Heather Scoffield from The Canadian Press is the winner this year in national print for a series of articles “The pain of painkillers: prescription drug abuse on reserves” published in newspapers across Canada in April 2012. Traveling to First Nations reserves on Cat Lake and North Caribou Lake, Ontario, Heather Scoffield explores the ravages of addiction to $1000 pills, the impact on all of the community, and the possibilities of treatment.

    “The epidemic of addiction to prescription painkillers of those who have lost their link to the land is skillfully examined,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “An article about a letter from children pleading with parents to break their habit is particularly compelling in bringing the issue home to readers in ways that are missed by just presenting the stark facts.” 

    In the video/audio category the winner, “Born of War” is an audio documentary broadcast on CBC Radio One The Current on 3 April 2012. Returning to Bosnia-Herzegovina twenty years after the war began, reporter Anna Maria Tremonti traces the lives of two mothers whose children are the legacy of days when rape was used as a weapon of war. The poignant piece produced by Lara O’Brien, and edited by Joan Webber, shows how both women have tried to deal with the development of their children when their birth was the product of an act of hate.

    “The use of rape in conflict is a gross human rights violation that has plagued warfare in many countries and must be stopped,” says Neve. “But those born of war show that while the trauma and injustice remain and the stigma lasts, there are rays of hope in the lives of the children.”

    In the local / alternative print category the winner is Cory Ruf for the article “A taste of tolerance” published in the January 2012 issue of The United Church Observer. The piece looks at the plight of Roma from eastern Europe through the prism of a vivid description of the members and pastor of Hamilton’s Gypsy Church.

    Cory Ruf weaves into the piece the history of discrimination of the Roma in education and employment in eastern Europe while describing the new life of some of the community in Hamilton. The contrast between how Roma can live their lives here, and what happens to them there, is striking.

    “Who the Roma are and what they have had to face becomes very clear with this article”, says Neve. “Cory Ruf  has eloquently explored their reality at home and the hurdles they face being accepted as refugees in a manner that shatters the stereotypes.”

    In the new category for online presentations the winners are Paul Barnsley and Kathleen Martens for two features on the APTN web site publicized on 29 November 2011 and 6 June 2012, exposing how residential school students were exploited by an unscrupulous law firm. In great detail and with individual items about the process, Barnsley and Martens detail the exploitation of vulnerable members of First Nations in their effort to obtain a settlement for residential school abuse. They uncover excessive fees and illegal loans that led to a judgement against the lawyer involved.

    “The reports expose the double victimization of the most vulnerable in a process that was designed to make amends for past abuses,” notes Neve. “It was an outrage that led to an investigation that forced the court to take action, proving the truth and power of their incisive reporting.”

    The judges for the Amnesty International Canada Media Awards in English this year were: Jeff Sallot, an instructor in journalism at Carleton University and former Parliamentary reporter for The Globe and Mail, Madelaine Drohan, an author and Canada correspondent for The Economist, and John Tackaberry, Media Relations for the English branch of Amnesty International Canada, a former reporter for Inter Press Service and Pacifica Radio News. 

    The awards are for national print, video/audio pieces, local/alternative print and online articles printed or broadcast in the period from 1 October, 2011 to 30 September 2012.              

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations (Ottawa)             (613)744-7667 #236

                                  Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations (Toronto)                  (416)363-9933 #332