Presentation of the Michener Award and Michener-Deacon Fellowships
Rideau Hall, Wednesday, June 14, 2017
I acknowledge that we are gathering on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.
Is this a fair country?
Is it ethical?
Is it just?
Does it practise good governance?
Does it protect its most vulnerable citizens, or does it abandon them?
The simple questions are the hardest, aren’t they? Particularly if the answers aren’t always what we would like them to be.
Fortunately, there are those who ask the tough questions anyway. We call them journalists. And the individuals seated in the front rows of this ballroom have been asking those hard questions about fairness, ethics, justice, governance and so many more.
You’re the finalists for the Michener Award, and you are all most deserving of this prestigious honour.
We’re very grateful for your dedication, your sense of teamwork, your talent and energy.
The articles and series you produced exemplify public service journalism. They have changed our communities and our country for the better. They have made a difference.
Here’s an understatement for all of you: this is an interesting time to be a journalist!
And it’s such an important time.
Canada, and the world we live in, are changing rapidly and profoundly. And one of the key questions of our time is: how do we navigate that change while staying true to the democratic values we hold dear?
One way we do it is through a relentless pursuit of the facts, wherever they may lead us. Not trivial facts, but facts that matter.
News organizations such as yours are leaders in the pursuit of facts that matter.
This is important, because as the saying goes, reality has a way of asserting itself. And meaningful facts can inspire meaningful change.
Your work is also important because the pursuit of facts builds trust over the long term, and trust is the bedrock of democracy.
So, to quote our parliamentary poet laureate George Elliot Clarke:
“Do not plague the people by shouting opinions. / Do not demonize opponents. / Do not mislead or confuse. / Produce facts.”
Facts build trust, but trust is only formed over time. To quote Mark Carney, trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari. What you’re doing is the painstaking but essential work of maintaining and building trust.
Like so much in our world today, trust is being buffeted by the winds of change: technological, demographic, environmental, economic, cultural. Canada is not immune.
That makes your dedication to public service journalism all the more essential. It anchors and orients us in changing times. It reminds us of our values, of what really matters. It restores trust.
And most importantly, your work makes a difference in the lives of everyday people, who must always be at the centre of all we do.
This award is to celebrate your achievements, and the Michener-Deacon Fellowships are to encourage further investigation and education. If I have a call to action today, it would simply be this:
Keep going. Continue and extend your pursuit of the facts that matter. Journalism is a vital democratic institution, no less so than our parliament, our courts and our schools.
Throughout my life I’ve done interviews with journalists. And I want to say that I trust you, and I believe in your dedication to the public good.
But it’s not a blind trust. It’s born of experience, and it’s grounded in fact.
I thank you all for your work. Congratulations to each of you.