Receives 2020 Michener Award for investigation into First Nations child welfare system
Unwavering, thorough and searing are just a few of the words used to describe the award-winning work of Kenneth Jackson, an Aboriginal Peoples Television Network journalist and Loyalist College media studies graduate whose story, Death by Neglect, won the 2020 Michener Award for public service journalism.
Jackson’s haunting investigation into the First Nations child welfare system focuses on the story of Sacha Raven Bob, a 12-year-old Indigenous girl and her two sisters who took their own lives within seven months of each other in 2014.
“It is my job to seek the truth, pursue it and then tell it,” said Jackson, who has been covering child welfare stories for nearly half a decade. “Something clicked when I started investigating this area and I knew I had to keep at it. That there were still so many untold stories to tell.”
Jackson, who has worked out of APTN’s Ottawa bureau since 2012, focuses on crime and social justice issues. He was working on a documentary in March 2020 about Indigenous youth in the child welfare system in Hamilton when the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world. He quickly shifted focus to youth about to age out of the system.
“Once youth in the child welfare system turn 18, they are abruptly removed from their social supports and have nowhere to go,” he said. “I knew that this was going to be a major issue with the high volume of youth who were about to age of out of care in the middle of a national health care crisis.”
Knowing that there were about 12,000 youth in care in Ontario, Jackson was determined to bring this issue forward. He phoned the Ontario government for almost two weeks before joining the premier’s daily news conference to ask the premier if he was going to put a moratorium on kids aging out of care.
On March 26, 2020 the province filed regulation that protected the supports and services of youth in care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after a source provided documents on the death of Sacha Raven Bob and before the year was over several investigations were launched into individual cases involving Indigenous youth, numerous families were reunited and new funding was announced for on-reserve child welfare. All of which can be linked to Jackson’s persistence and investigative journalism. He credits his Loyalist College professors for inspiring him to be steadfast in the pursuit of the truth.
“It was a Loyalist College professor, Robert Washburn, who put his career and his name on the line for me to secure my first job as a journalist at the Haliburton County Echo,” he said. “The faculty knew I wasn’t the type of kid to sit back and let things fall into place. It brings tears to my eyes just talking about it; that job had a huge impact on my life.”