Thulasi Srikanthan (Ottawa Citizen) – Veteran Citizen reporter Gary Dimmock and his former colleague Greg McArthur picked up two awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists this weekend in Edmonton for their ground-breaking piece that sparked a parliamentary review of the witness protection program.
The pair won the Don McGillivray Award for Investigative Journalism, the CAJ’s top award for investigative journalism in Canada. They also won in the open newspaper/wire service category.
“It is terrific that the Citizen has again been recognized for its investigative reporting and everyone, from the publisher on down, should share the honour,” Mr. Dimmock said.
The gala dinner for CAJ’s awards for investigative journalism took place Saturday night, coinciding with the association’s annual conference.
Mr. Dimmock said the significance of the story is still unfolding and its full details about the RCMP’s agent-turned-killer remains to be told.
“The story was crippled by legal restrictions which left the story incomplete,” he said.
The 5,000-word article dealt with a Victoria man named Richard Young, an RCMP informant who entered the witness protection program despite strong evidence he was a liar.
While in the program, he was convicted of killing someone. But no information about his crime or his new identity has been released, because the Witness Protection Program Act allows the RCMP to cloak the program in secrecy.
“If the full story is kept secret, how will our national police force be held to account?” Mr. Dimmock asked.
Though the pair’s story appeared simultaneously in the Citizen and Globe and Mail on March 23, 2007, the two researched and wrote it at the Citizen. Mr. McArthur now works at the Globe and Mail.
Within days of its publication, the Commons public safety committee voted unanimously to review the witness protection program and Mr. Young’s case.
“I’m really pleased for Gary that he’s been honoured in this way,” said Drew Gragg, deputy editor of the Citizen.
“This was ground-breaking, difficult work and very deserving of national recognition.”
The pair told as much of the tale as permitted by law — but only after a six-month legal battle against the RCMP, which wanted to suppress it entirely.
Citizen reporter Glen McGregor had also been nominated for two series — Rapid Fire, published Feb. 10 to 14, 2007, and The Hornet’s Sting, which appeared June 9 to 14, 2007 — in the computer-assisted reporting category.
Rapid Fire examined patterns of gun ownership in Canada, using the federal gun registry’s database. The Hornet’s Sting drew from the City of Ottawa’s own data to analyse how, where and why city drivers get parking tickets.
Associate business editor James Bagnall, along with four other journalists, was awarded a fellowship co-sponsored by the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canada International Development Agency. Mr. Bagnall will travel to South Africa to work on a series of articles on why that country’s blacks are growing increasingly frustrated with the pace of economic improvement post-apartheid.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is Canada’s only national professional organization for reporters, editors, producers and photographers.
The awards come with a $1,000 prize and a certificate of achievement.