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Sinclair named Canada's columnist of the year

Tijana Martin</p><p>/ The Canadian PressNiigaan Sinclair, of the Winnipeg Free Press, accepts the award for his column during the National Newspaper Awards in Toronto on Friday, May 3, 2019.</p></p>

Tijana Martin

/ The Canadian PressNiigaan Sinclair, of the Winnipeg Free Press, accepts the award for his column during the National Newspaper Awards in Toronto on Friday, May 3, 2019.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2019 (393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Free Press Indigenous writer Niigaan Sinclair has been named Canada’s best columnist, winning a distinguished National Newspaper Award, which was presented at a gala in Toronto Friday evening.

Sinclair, who is Anishinaabe, joined the Free Press as a regular columnist in June 2018. Sinclair, who is on sabbatical from his job as an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, writes about Indigenous issues.

In accepting the award, Sinclair said it was his childhood dream to write for the Free Press. He said Winnipeg is the centre of reconciliation in Canada, calling it "the most imperfect city, but the most perfect."

"I’m honoured to receive the National Newspaper Award for column writing, the same award Richard Wagamese received in 1990. It’s a testament to the incredible support and belief the Free Press has in me, and also how critically important the conversations and issues in Winnipeg are for the national stage."

He credited editor Paul Samyn for standing up for him and said he remembers when the newspaper received hate mail accusing it of "becoming a native newspaper."

Free Press editor Paul Samyn said Sinclair’s columns have greatly enhanced the paper.

"The National Newspaper Awards celebrate the best in Canadian journalism and that’s what makes Sinclair’s win so special. We are so proud he is part of our newsroom, serving our readers with his work, which has so rightly been judged as the best in the land."

Sinclair submitted three columns to the competition. One concerned Hollywood’s portrayal of Indigenous people and how it applied to Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley being found not guilty in the fatal shooting of an Indigenous man, Colten Boushie.

A second column featured Sinclair’s thoughts as a parent of a daughter while he waited for the jury’s verdict into the death of Indigenous teenager Tina Fontaine. The third column dealt with Indigenous veterans, in particular, his grandfather.

Free Press reporters Jessica Botelho-Urbanski, Melissa Martin and Katie May were finalists in the Project of the Year category for Ice Storm: Manitoba’s Meth Crisis. The seven-part series documented how methamphetamine is ravaging Winnipeg and destroying lives.

Tijana Martin / The Canadian Press</p><p>Free Press writer Niigaan Sinclair accepts the award for top newspaper columnist in the country Friday night at the National Newspaper Awards in Toronto.</p>

Tijana Martin / The Canadian Press

Free Press writer Niigaan Sinclair accepts the award for top newspaper columnist in the country Friday night at the National Newspaper Awards in Toronto.

Erin DeBooy of the Brandon Sun was a finalist in the Local Reporting category for her examination of the personal and human toll caused by methamphetamine use in the western Manitoba city.

There were 63 finalists in 21 categories, selected from 951 entries for work published in 2018. The competition is open to daily newspapers, news agencies and online news sites approved by the NNA board of governors.

The Globe and Mail took top honours overall, winning 10 of 21 categories. The Globe had 20 finalists in 13 categories, including all three finalists in the business category.

Coverage of the truck-bus crash that killed 16 members of a junior hockey team in Saskatchewan in April 2018 was spotlighted at the awards ceremony.

Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was named Journalist of the Year for his coverage of the aftermath of the crash that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos organization. The Journalist of the Year is selected by a panel of three past NNA winners from among the category winners each year.

The Humboldt crash story also took top honours in the Breaking News category, which was won by a team of journalists from The Canadian Press. That category is for coverage in a 36-hour period immediately after major news breaks.

In addition to Mitchell’s work, the StarPhoenix also won the News Photo category, for Kayle Neis’s picture of hockey sticks planted in a snowbank to pay tribute to Broncos killed and injured in the crash.

Grant Robertson of the Globe and Mail won for the seventh time in his career, this time in the Long Feature category for a story about an experiment that allowed some laboratory monkeys to "retire" rather than be euthanized after medical researchers were finished with them. Robertson has been a finalist 12 times.

The StarPhoenix and The Canadian Press each had two wins on Friday. Aside from the win for Breaking News, The Canadian Press also won the Sports Photo category for a picture by Andrew Vaughan of a mixed martial arts fighter after a brutal match. This was the third NNA Vaughan has won.

Six other organizations each won one award: La Presse, Le Devoir, National Post/Calgary Herald, St. Catharines Standard, Toronto Star and Waterloo Region Record.

This was the 70th year of the awards, which were established by the Toronto Press Club in 1949 to encourage excellence and reward achievement in daily newspaper work in Canada. The awards program has operated under its current administrative structure since 1989.

All finalist entries can be viewed at the NNA website (


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Updated on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 9:15 PM CDT: updates story.

May 4, 2019 at 2:01 PM: final

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