Ricochet took home the investigative journalism award for online media at a ceremony last night in Winnipeg as part of the Canadian Association of Journalists' annual conference.
The winning investigation unmasked the identities of several pseudonymous operators of Fireforce Ventures, a web store that specializes in reproduced Rhodesian military gear.
Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe, was a British colony that broke away in order to maintain white-minority rule over the indigenous African population. The former pariah state has been embraced by white supremacist movements, which use its insignia as a coded symbol of their beliefs.
“It’s very encouraging to have received this award,” said Jon Milton. “Particularly since it signals that our journalist peers are beginning to take the threat of the far right seriously. Journalists have a responsibility to our communities, and identifying dangerous racists is one way to live up to that mission.”
The investigation into Fireforce Ventures revealed connections between the company, the military, and mainstream political parties including Alberta’s United Conservative Party, the Conservative Party of Canada, and the People’s Party of Canada.
It also made national news. The Canadian Armed Forces suspended the involved soldiers and launched investigations into their conduct, and the federal minister of defence said he was monitoring the situation. Ultimately all four soldiers were reinstated, with one of them under remedial measures for the next year.
The United Conservative Party, Conservative Party of Canada, and People’s Party of Canada were questioned by media about the membership status of Fireforce personnel and their approach to dealing with white supremacists in their ranks. Alberta UCP leader Jason Kenney publicly expelled a former senior campaign worker from the party who was identified in the Ricochet investigation as a Fireforce staffer with a history of racist commentary. Kenney also promised to introduce new procedures to screen party members.
These developments were tracked in several follow-up articles penned by Erin Seatter and Ethan Cox. A series of five articles, and authors Jon Milton, Erin Seatter and Ethan Cox, were recognized collectively.
“I am honoured that our work was recognized, particularly given the phenomenal journalism nominated in this category,” said Erin Seatter. “I hope the win brings attention to the importance of investigative journalism in combating a very real threat in our country — the growth of the far right. It's dangerous work, but it's vital work, and we all have a stake in it.”
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- Original investigation: Meet the Canadian soldiers behind a white supremacist military surplus store
- Update: Canadian Forces investigating soldiers behind white supremacist company
- Update: Jason Kenney expels former senior campaign operative from party
- Update: Rhodesia nostalgia ‘screams out extreme hatred,’ say Zimbabweans
- Update: Canadian Forces suspend soldiers behind white supremacist web store
- Update: Rebel Media reporter worked for white supremacist web store
- Update: Soldier who appeared on white nationalist podcast reinstated by Canadian Forces