Kevin Donovan, Jesse Brown, Jayme Poisson, Emily Mathieu, Randy Risling | Hillman Foundation

2015 Canadian Hillman Prize Winner

Kevin Donovan, Jesse Brown, Jayme Poisson, Emily Mathieu, Randy Risling
The Toronto Star

From May until December 2014, a team of journalists at the Star dug into a sensitive, explosive issue that led to what has been described as a “national conversation” on the issue of sexual assault and harassment in Canada. 

Investigative editor/reporter Kevin Donovan, working with freelancer Jesse Brown, probed allegations against CBC Radio Host Jian Ghomeshi that he beat and choked women without their consent. 

The Star learned of the Ghomeshi allegations at the same time as its reporters were investigating how university and college campuses in Canada dealt with the issue of sexual violence. 

Though the stories were different, there was a strong, common thread — women alleging abuse who felt the system failed them and who were scared to come forward.

In the campus investigation, Jayme Poisson and Emily Mathieu ended years of secrecy on Canadian campuses with stories that exposed the traumatic issue of sexual assault and the lack of policies and protocols.  Common themes emerged: Post-secondary institutions weren’t doing enough to address the problem (including educating their students about concepts like consent) and policies and procedures were either non-existent or confusing and difficult to find. 

In the Ghomeshi case, the investigation has led to criminal charges against Ghomeshi; he was fired from the CBC, two senior executives have been put on leave, and CBC is conducting an investigation.

The material was enhanced by the work of videographer Randy Risling.

Collectively these stories touched off a national conversation on the issue of sexual harassment in our daily lives, which is ongoing to this day. It has caused governments and other institutions to better define consent in the context of harassment and introduce policies that make it clear what is and is not acceptable. And, it has encouraged previous victims to come forward with their complaints knowing that authorities have a much more informed understanding of the importance of taking allegations of violence seriously.

Kevin Donovan is the Toronto Star’s investigations editor and a senior reporter. Kevin has won three National Newspaper Awards, two Michener Awards for public service journalism and three Canadian Association of Journalists awards. Over 30  years he has investigated charities, child abuse,  lawyers, doctors, businesses, government agencies such as ORNGE and politicians including former Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford. He is the author of the Dead Times, a fictional account of a big city newspaper and the co-author with Nick Pron of Crime Story.

Jesse Brown is the host of Canadaland, a podcast critiquing Canadian media and investigating Canadian culture, the former host of The Contrarians, a CBC-radio talk show, and a prolific journalist who has been published in Maclean’s, Toronto Life, The Globe and Mail, VICE, the Toronto Star, and the National Post. He recently and successfully led a campaign to increase the funding for his podcast, which far exceeded the initial levy request, and is now produced twice a week instead of its initial weekly show. Jesse brought the Jian Ghomeshi allegations to the Star and teamed up with the Star on the first part of the Ghomeshi investigation.

Jayme Poisson is a reporter on the Toronto Star’s Investigative Team. She has been with the newspaper since 2010 and has reported on civil rights abuses at the G20, guns and gangs and Egypt’s revolution from Cairo. She won a Michener Award in 2014 as one of the lead reporters in the  Star’s investigation into Mayor Rob Ford and was a finalist the same year for a  National Newspaper Award. Working with reporter Emily Mathieu she recently uncovered serious problems on university and college campuses with how administration dealt with — and failed to deal with — allegations of sexual assault.

Emily Mathieu is a member of the Toronto Star’s investigative team. She has uncovered problems in Toronto’s taxi industry, the provincial landlord and tenant board and delved into financial crimes including mortgage fraud and Ponzi schemes. She was also part of the team that investigated Mayor Rob Ford and most recently, working with reporter Jayme Poisson, investigated Canadian university and college campuses, learning that few had clear cut policies for dealing with allegations of sexual assault. Before joining the Star Emily worked for the Financial Post and interned for As It Happens at the CBC.

Randy Risling is an award-winning Toronto Star videographer and photographer. Repeatedly, Randy’s work has been recognized at the national and international levels for his rare ability to combine stunning cinematography with solid storytelling. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, his work with the Star has taken him everywhere from Turkey and Somalia to Jamaica and China.