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

HALIFAX — Canadian Press reporter Michael Tutton has been named a recipient of a Nova Scotia Human Rights Award for his work covering issues affecting people with disabilities.

Tutton is among the first journalists to receive the award, which is given annually by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to honour people who make contributions to "attaining a just, equitable and inclusive society in Nova Scotia."

Other recipients this year are Daniel N. Paul, an elder from Sipekne’katik, for his work building cultural awareness and understanding of Mi'kmaq history; the Grandmother Water Protectors from Sipekne’katik for their environmental protection efforts; students from Northumberland Regional High School in Alma for their work to provide access to food, clothing and school supplies; Stepping Stone, which protects the rights of sex workers through advocacy and community outreach; Terena Francis of Paqtnkek for her advocacy 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 Friday, the eve of Human Rights Day, at a ceremony in Halifax.

Tutton’s stories on the lives and struggles of people with disabilities began in the spring of 2009, when he published a groundbreaking story on the documented abuse occurring in larger facilities around the province.

Advocates have said the poor living conditions in large facilities had their roots in a provincial government decision in the 1990s to freeze construction of small homes based in the community — a decision that was later rescinded.

He used freedom of information laws to uncover disturbing cases of neglect, including one instance where an autistic man was confined for 15 days in a continually lit room, monitored by video and at times not allowed out to use the bathroom.

Inquiries were launched, advocates for people with disabilities held news conferences to challenge the lack of housing and the news coverage became part of the public discussion on how to improve oversight.

In 2014, coverage shifted to a landmark human rights case led by three people who had been required to live in a Halifax psychiatric facility for over a decade, despite opinions from staff they were capable of living in community homes.

“This is an award recognizing that journalism is crucial to human rights, because without a story being told, people can remain invisible and just reforms are stalled,” Tutton said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

The Canadian Press