Carleton University’s Susan Harada, associate director of the School of Journalism and Communication, announced today that Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Melissa Renwick have received this year’s $25,000 R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship. The fellowship is administered by Carleton and supports a significant foreign reporting project by Canadian journalists or journalism students.
“The impact that Jim continues to have on journalism in this country is enormous,” said Harada. “We can see it in the top quality of the applications we receive each year, and this year was no different. Our 2019 recipients will pursue an important international story that has clear policy implications here at home.”
Toronto Star labour reporter Mojtehedzadeh and independent documentary photographer Renwick plan to use the fellowship to bring Canadians a rarely seen perspective on Canada’s migrant worker program, told from the vantage point of spouses and children left behind in Mexico. It will ask whether a program that supposedly empowers families is in fact sometimes destroying them.
The stories will be accompanied by a photo essay and mini-documentary that pulls together a compelling visual account of these issues — capturing the cycle of migration and family separation through intimate, personal moments of where these vulnerable people live, work, how they put food on the table and where they sleep.
“The idea that some families must choose to live apart for the majority of their lives to put food on the table struck us as an instinctively compelling one,” said Mojtehedzadeh. “While migrant workers often face extreme vulnerability performing manual labour on Canadian farms, their families also experience deep financial, psychological and health consequences at home as a result of prolonged separation. We felt like that human cost is invisible to many Canadians.”
The announcement was made at an event hosted by Senator Jim Munson and attended by members of the Travers family, parliamentarians and colleagues of the former foreign correspondent. Travers was editor of the Ottawa Citizen, executive editor of the Toronto Star and an award-winning Ottawa columnist for the Star at the time of his death on March 3, 2011.
‘’Jim’s legacy of storytelling lives on through the voices of a new generation of investigative reporters,“ said Munson.
“We were so excited when we first heard the news that we had been selected as the recipients for this year’s Travers Fellowship,” said Renwick. “Sara and I are so humbled and honoured to be granted the opportunity to follow in the legacy of Jim Travers by bearing witness to an issue that extends beyond Canada’s borders. We feel supported to know that the jury believes in this story as much as we do and we will continue to pour our hearts into this project to show Canadians who these people are and why they matter.”
About Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Mojtehedzadeh is a reporter at the Toronto Star. Her work focuses on worker issues, precarious work, labour and health and safety. Previously, she worked for the BBC World Service. Along with Renwick, her work at the Star has been recognized by the Hillman Foundation prize for social justice-oriented investigative journalism. In 2017, she received the JHR/Canadian Association of Journalists Award for human rights reporting and was a finalist for the Michener Award for public service journalism for her investigation into the use of temp agencies in Ontario. She was part of a team investigation into abuses of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program that was nominated for a 2017 National Newspaper Award.
About Melissa Renwick
Renwick is an independent documentary photographer based on Canada’s west coast. She is interested in documenting competing ways of life in the region, like those who are trying to live naturally, sustainably and in harmony with their environment, versus those who are manipulating nature to create jobs, profits and consumer goods. Her past work has explored social justice, human rights and gender issues. Renwick has been a contributing photographer to the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, the Canadian Press and Maclean’s Magazine. She has been named Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, an emerging photographer by the Magenta Foundation and Canada’s 2015 and 2016 Photojournalist of the Year by the News Photographers Association of Canada. She previously worked as a staff photographer at the Toronto Star.
About Jim Travers
Travers worked as the Southam News correspondent in Africa and the Middle East during the 1980s covering major stories – from apartheid in South Africa and the Ethiopian famine to the conflict in Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq war. Returning to Canada, he continued an influential career as general manager of Southam News, editor of the Ottawa Citizen, executive managing editor of the Toronto Star and finally as an award-winning national affairs columnist known for his compassion and playful wit.
He believed Canadians deserve first-hand, in-depth coverage of important stories outside our borders. He argued passionately that it is crucial for Canadian reporters to “bear witness” – because in our interconnected world, foreign news is local news.
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