The slow journalism unit wins a long read about the effects of polluting oil and chemical plants built among indigenous communities.
Judges at the 27th Annual Amnesty International Canada Awards gave Al Jazeera English Online first prize in the mixed media category for its interactive feature film, Toxic Legacy: The Fight to End Environmental Racism in Canada.
Produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Institute of Journalism and Natural Resourcesthe long read focuses on the heavily industrialized area known as Chemical Valley around the Canadian city of Sarnia, Ontario, at the southern tip of Lake Huron.
The area, just across from the US state of Michigan, is known for its roughly three dozen oil refineries, petrochemical plants and energy facilities that for decades have been emitting toxic pollutants into surrounding communities .
Al Jazeera English Online reporters Megan O’Toole and Jillian Kestler-D’Amours delved into the issue of environmental racism in towns, First Nations communities and neighborhoods around Chemical Valley – which is mostly populated by Indigenous and People of Color communities.
In the story, which includes embedded video, high-quality photographs and graphics, reporters interview a variety of locals – some who, since childhood, remember playing in a foul-smelling “misty haze”.
With the high incidence of stillbirths, cancers, blood and respiratory diseases in the region, parents fear for the health of their children.
According to a 2019 report by environmental group Ecojustice, some 23 facilities in the Chemical Valley emit more than 50 tons of air pollutants annually. In total, facilities in the Sarnia area emitted over 45,300 tonnes of air pollutants in the same year, approximately 10% of total emissions in the province of Ontario. Chemical Valley accounts for approximately 40 percent of the Canadian chemical industry.
“Our journalists continue to draw attention to under-reported stories that impact the most vulnerable communities,” said Soraya Salam, director of Al Jazeera English Online. “This honor is very encouraging as we pursue more original and courageous online reporting on environmental justice issues.”
Frequent Al Jazeera English Online contributor Brandi Morin also received an honorable mention for her award-winning feature-length reporting on Indigenous and First Nations communities for Canada’s ‘weeping shame’: Fields filled with children’s bones. Brandi’s previous feature-length feature for Al Jazeera won a 2021 Edward R Murrow Award in the Feature Reporting category for The Stink of Death: On Canada’s Road of Tears.
The awards were announced by award organizers Amnesty International Canada on September 14 in Ottawa. A facebook Live streaming event to recognize winners and honorees will take place on October 12 at 7:30 p.m. EDT (23:30 GMT).