One of Canada’s most prestigious journalism honors has been awarded to an Anishnaabe reporter covering the story of missing and murdered indigenous women.
On May 29, Duncan McCue (Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation) won the Canadian Association of Journalists’ 2015 Don McGillivray Award for his coverage of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. The McGillivray Award is given annually to the top investigative story from all entries in the 14 award categories.
McCue and his team presented their story on a CBC News website, Missing & Murdered: Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls, that included TV news stories, interviews with family members of missing or murdered indigenous women, and articles that were among the first to be published on the issue. The website led to the identification of even more missing or murdered indigenous women.
McCue has previously won multiple awards for his coverage of First Nations issues for the CBC.
“I have mixed emotions about getting the CAJ Award and other awards the database has received,” said McCue. “It’s difficult to accept praise and recognition for something that is so tragic and upsetting to a lot of us.”
McCue shares the award and the $500 cash prize with a team of 16 experienced CBC journalists: Cate Friesen, Cecil Rosner, Connie Walker, Tiar Wilson, Kimberly Ivany, Martha Troian, Chantelle Bellrichard, Joanne Levasseur, Teghan Beaudette, Kristy Hoffman, Donna Lee, Tara Lindemann, William Wolfe-Wylie, Richard Grasley, Michael Leschart, and Michael Pereira.
“If there’s a stand-out story that really serves the public interest in the last year, this has got to be amongst the top,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “It really gave a voice and a face to the MMIW issue, and in an election year caused the country to start to really care about the issue.”
Three stories on missing and murdered indigenous women were nominated in various categories: the CBC entry in the Online Media category, and entries from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail in the Open Media category.
McCue said that Lorelei Williams, whose sister is among the estimated 1,400 missing or murdered women, posed with the glass trophy after the awards ceremony, telling him, “People are finally beginning to take notice.”
McCue said the government inquiry launched after the recent election made his team’s months of work gratifying.
“Hopefully the inquiry will be the beginning of the conversation of how we’re going to address some of the systemic issues that keep seeing our women in these vulnerable positions,” he said.
McCue has covered similar tragedies for decades at CBC, from the Pickton murder trial in Vancouver to stories from James Bay, Kasheshawan and throughout Canada. He also teaches a journalism program he started at the University of British Columbia, Reporting in Indigenous Communities. The course has been part of the journalism program’s curriculum for the past five years, and alumni are now working in broadcast and print media across Canada, expanding the coverage of indigenous issues.
“The Reporting in Indigenous Communities course gives journalism students tools to understand various protocols and understand some of the issues facing First Nations communities,” he said. “It’s difficult for politicians to ignore issues when the media are on it.”