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Nova Scotia

Canadian Press reporter wins N.S. Human Rights Award for disabilities reporting

HALIFAX – Canadian press reporter Michael Tutton has been named a recipient of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Award for his work on issues affecting people with disabilities.

Tutton is among the first journalists to receive the award, presented annually by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to honor people who make contributions to “the achievement of a just, equitable and inclusive society in Nova Scotia.”

Other honorees this year include Daniel N. Paul, a Sipekne’katik elder, for his work in raising cultural awareness and understanding the history of Mi’kmaq; Sipekne’katik’s grandmother Water Protectors for her conservation efforts; students from Northumberland Regional High School in Alma for their efforts to provide access to food, clothing and school supplies; Stepping Stone, which protects the rights of sex workers through advocacy and outreach; Terena Francis of Paqtnkek for her commitment to promoting Mi’kmaq culture; and Carolann Wright of Beechville for her commitment to social justice and economic prosperity for people of African descent.

The awards were presented at a ceremony in Halifax on Friday, the eve of Human Rights Day.

Tutton’s stories about the lives and struggles of people with disabilities began in the spring of 2009 when he published a groundbreaking story about documented abuse in major institutions across the province.

Advocates have said the poor living conditions in large facilities had their roots in a decision by the provincial government in the 1990s to freeze construction of small houses in the community – a decision that was later overturned.

He used freedom of information laws to uncover troubling cases of neglect, including one in which an autistic man was locked in a permanently lit room for 15 days, monitored by video and intermittently barred from using the bathroom.

Investigations were launched, disability advocates held press conferences to address the housing shortage, and reporting became part of the public debate on how to improve oversight.

In 2014, coverage shifted to a landmark human rights case led by three people who had been forced to live in a Halifax psychiatric facility for over a decade despite the staff’s opinion that they were able to live in shared accommodation.

“This is an award that recognizes that journalism is vital to human rights, because without a story being told, people can remain invisible and reform will only stall,” Tutton said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 9, 2022.


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