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Amber Bracken honoured by Canadian Association of Journalists for Wet’suwet’en coverage in The Narwhal

Bracken earned recognition for her outstanding contributions to journalism in Canada for documenting RCMP raids in Wet’suwet’en territory amid threats to press freedom

The Canadian Association of Journalists has recognized photographer Amber Bracken for her exceptional coverage of the Wet’suwet’en crisis in The Narwhal, praising her “moral courage” in defending the public’s right to know.

Bracken, Jerome Turner and Jesse Winter — all of whom reported on RCMP raids in Wet’suwet’en territory — were awarded the Charles Bury President’s Award for their outstanding contributions to journalism in Canada.

The three journalists were on the ground in northwest B.C. in February when the RCMP threatened to arrest reporters and implemented an exclusion zone to prohibit media from monitoring police activity. 

The police force subsequently reversed course amid widespread criticism from the Canadian Association of Journalists, Amnesty International and news organizations including The Narwhal.

Canadian Association of Journalists president Karyn Pugliese praised Bracken, Turner and Winter for their “moral courage” to report in the face of those threats, adding: “Nothing is more critical to a free and just society than the right to know.”

Photographer Amber Bracken.

In her acceptance speech, Bracken acknowledged the concerted efforts to defend press freedom.

“It would have been a much scarier place to be without the support that was shown by CAJ and without the resolute support of Emma and Carol at The Narwhal, and all of my other colleagues there who were working tirelessly behind the scenes to write and contextualize what I was seeing on the front line,” Bracken said.

“There is no minor infraction on the right to report and we really do need to stick together and we really need to have each other’s backs,” she said. “Considering the times we’re living through, it’s more important than ever that we be really tenacious about defending our right to report.”

“The crisis on Wet’suwe’ten territory goes to the heart of The Narwhal’s reporting on Indigenous rights and the management of natural resources, especially in places that are remote and often out of sight for the vast majority of Canadians,” said Carol Linnitt, The Narwhal’s managing editor.

“Amber’s bravery and commitment to tell the story through her photography — even in the face of intimidation — played an invaluable role in keeping the public informed about this critical issue.”

Bracken spent one month in Wet’suwet’en territory while on assignment for The Narwhal, producing in-depth reporting and photography on the RCMP raids as well as the cultural impacts of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory

The Wet’suwet’en standoff in opposition to the pipeline sparked international media coverage along with protests and blockades across Canada. Amid the backlash, the federal and B.C. governments agreed to sit down with Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders to discuss rights and title. An agreement between the three parties was reached last month.

This year’s Canadian Association of Journalists Awards were held virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the gala in Montreal. 

Beyond Bracken’s work, The Narwhal received nominations for its investigation into Alberta’s oil and gas regulator as well as a photo essay documenting a Canadian mining company’s impact on a small Mexican town.

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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