W5 documentary on RCMP wins CAJ Award
Published Monday, May 31, 2010 3:40PM EDT
W5 has won a Canadian Association of Journalists Award for its documentary Beyond Justice, which investigated three killings at the hands of RCMP officers in British Columbia and the failure of the justice system to hold police accountable.
The full-hour documentary also questioned the work of RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was not reappointed and later RCMP Commissioner William Elliott announced that the Mounties would no longer investigate themselves in case of death or other matters of public confidence.
The CAJ Award was in the category of Open Television, Greater than 5 minutes, meaning it was awarded to long-form television journalism. It was awarded to the W5 team involved in the production: Victor Malarek, reporter; Robert Osborne, producer; Patti-Ann Finlay, associate producer; Brett Mitchell, senior producer; Anton Koschany, executive producer.
Beyond Justice looked at the death of Ian Bush, who had been arrested outside a hockey arena in his home town of Houston, British Columbia. A few hours later he was dead, having been shot during an altercation inside the RCMP detachment. The officer who killed Bush claimed he had been defending himself after being attacked. However, internal RCMP investigation reports obtained by W5 contradicted that evidence.
In a second case, W5 investigated the killing of Kevin St. Arnaud, of Vanderhoof, B.C. St. Arnaud was shot after being chased by officers following a pharmacy break-in. The officer who fired the fatal shot claimed he had fallen and was defending himself. But forensic evidence obtained by W5 questioned the angle at which the fatal bullets struck St. Arnaud.
The Crown prosecutor's office in British Columbia reviewed both cases and refused to lay charges.
A third case investigated by W5 was that of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. He died after being tasered by Mounties at Vancouver Airport. While the B.C. Crown cleared the officers and decided not to press charges, a cell phone video called into question the officers' version of events, showing them repeatedly tasering a confused man, armed only with a stapler.
"We are absolutely thrilled by this award, which has been given by our peers, and endorses the powerful investigative journalism produced by W5," said Anton Koschany, the program's executive producer. "In addition, our thoughts and thanks go to the families of Ian Bush and Kevin St. Arnaud, who live with the loss of their loved ones in these tragic killings."
Two nights earlier, Beyond Justice was awarded a Citation of Merit by the Governor General, as a finalist in the prestigious Michener Awards.
W5 had a second nomination in the same category: Hot on the Trail – a report investigating 40-year-old murders in Ontario, believed to be the work of a serial killer.
In addition CTV News reporter John Vennavally-Rao won the CAJ Award for Daily Excellence, for his reporting the night in the summer of 2009 when a series of violent tornados ripped across the suburbs north of Toronto.
"W5 is the longest-running newsmagazine program in North America. And the most-watched current affairs program in Canada," said Koschany. "This award reinforces what our viewers already know."
The program, which was first broadcast by CTV in 1966, will begin its 45th season next fall.