Feature Writing (under 25,000 circulation)
Winner: Scott Dunn, Owen Sound Sun-Times
Scott Dunn’s series of three stories looks at the drinking water disaster of Walkerton through multiple, compelling voices, including those of residents who lived through the tragedy and the perspective of Walkerton Inquiry commissioner Dennis O’Connor, whose recommendations for systemic change transformed Ontario into a world leader in safe drinking water. Dunn’s work points out that though the tragic events of 20 years ago, when seven people died and 3,000 became ill after drinking E. coli-contaminated water, have a positive legacy, namely The Walkerton Clean Water Centre, which is known for its training and research, there is another legacy: the struggles and bleak prognosis of those who suffer from serious physical injuries caused by their drinking water. After looking at Walkerton’s past and present, in Part 3 Dunn looks to the future, focusing on communities — including many First Nation communities where long-term drinking-water advisories are a way of life — whose water systems remain vulnerable because they’re not covered by Walkerton’s regulatory changes and the efforts underway to address the gaps.
Runner-up: Cory Smith, Stratford Beacon Herald
Cory Smith’s stories about Sarah Campbell’s battle against the border closure that separated her from her fiancé while she simultaneously battled cancer capture the poignancy of forced separation during the pandemic. Through multiple interviews with Campbell at her home in Stratford and with her British fiancé Jacob Tyler via video, Smith conveys how the young couple whose campaign to include “fiancé” in the definition of essential family became the faces of the movement to expand the criteria. By also speaking with politicians and an immigration lawyer, Smith helps readers understand the complexities faced by many other Canadians during a year defined by the words separation and isolation.
Runner-up: Steph Crosier, Kingston Whig-Standard
In her two-part series on the drug poisoning crisis in Kingston, Steph Crosier speaks to multiple people on the frontlines of an overdose crisis that has been described as a parallel pandemic compounded by COVID-19. Crosier’s stories go beyond the grim statistics, including interviews with those suffering from drug dependencies and to the support workers, police and medical professionals to show how stigma, criminalization and ineffective policies are contributing to a crisis that has deepened in communities across the province and, indeed, the country during the pandemic.
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