Winner: Katrina Clarke, Hamilton Spectator
In this months-long investigative piece, Katrina Clarke exposed systemic sexual violence and harassment at McMaster University that had long been concealed and often ignored by the school’s officials.
Clarke began her investigation following the arrest of a professor charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm on a student. Her stories went well beyond that incident, revealing how sexual violence was embedded in the university’s culture.
The stories gave voice to survivors, who not only shared details of assault and harassment, but also exposed how long-drawn-out investigations compounded the suffering of victims and prioritized — intentionally or not — the protection of the university’s reputation.
Ultimately, Clarke’s highlighting of the issue went well beyond McMaster University. In January 2021, the province of Ontario, heeding the calls of sexual violence victims and their supporters, announced that laws governing campus policies will be strengthened, including making it illegal to probe survivors’ sexual pasts, a practice often used to cast doubt upon allegations.
Runner-up: Terry Pender, Waterloo Region Record
Although Helmet Oberlander had been investigated as a possible Nazi war criminal since the 1970s and was facing deportation after being stripped of Canadian citizenship for a fourth and final time in 2017, little was known about the details of his murderous past.
Beginning in 2017, Terry Pender filed multiple Access to Information requests from various government departments. He spent a year poring over more than 2,000 pages of previously secret records and producing a shocking picture of Canada’s last suspected Nazi war criminal.
Helmet Oberlander is one of the Waterloo Region’s most famous German immigrants, and a wealthy and successful developer in Canada’s largest German-Canadian community. He has spent decades denying criminal activity and at one point 12,000 people in the region signed a petition supporting him.
Publishing this story citing reports describing Oberlander as a volunteer for the Waffen SS and an enthusiastic participant in shooting Jews took an act of courage, given the Waterloo Region’s large and influential community.
Oberlander’s deportation has yet to occur.
Runner-up: Jeff Outhit, Waterloo Region Record
In 2016, Jeff Outhit analyzed 10 years of Waterloo Regional Police data and revealed that police were four times more likely to stop and document Black people in the street.
At that time, police officers conducted street checks, stopping people to ask identities without laying a charge. The practice is also known as carding.
In 2017, Ontario restricted carding and police changed intelligence-gathering procedures, reducing significantly the number of names collected.
In the midst of protests against police violence last summer, Outhit decided to analyze data since 2018. He found that although overall numbers were down, Black people were still four times more likely to be documented than non-Blacks.
Following publication, the police board voted to analyze the collected data more frequently and to seek help from outside experts to evaluate procedures.
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