Justin Brake wins 2018 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression

Justin Brake wins 2018 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression

Justin Brake has won the 2018 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize. The $1,000 prize is awarded annually to an individual or group whose work has advanced freedom of expression in Canada. An Ottawa-based reporter for APTN News, Brake is currently facing civil and criminal charges for reporting from the Indigenous-led occupation of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project site in October 2016.

“Mr. Brake showed great courage in staying with the story as it unfolded on the ground. He is showing great courage in fighting against these charges, which are designed to destroy him personally and to frighten other journalists away from fully covering the story,” said judge and former PEN International president, John Ralston Saul. “That a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice would include in his ruling that Brake’s status as a journalist was not a material factor in the case, is deeply worrying. In fact, I find it astonishing that he could have written this. It contradicts both the Charter and the history of freedom of expression in Canada going back to Joseph Howe’s famous defence of free expression in the Nova Scotia court on March 2nd, 1835.”

In 2016, when working as a reporter and writer for The Independent Brake covered the protests relating to the controversial Muskrat Fall hydroelectric construction project, this included a live-stream of the Indigenous-led occupation of the site. Brake followed activists as they broke through the camp gate and entered the site, and remained as the only journalist to cover the story from inside the camp. In an interview with the Globe and Mail Brake said, “I fear that journalists watching my case unfold might be influenced, might be deterred from following such stories. Regardless of whether or not I’m convicted in the end, the chill effect is huge.”

The PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize is named in memory of Kenneth A. Filkow, Q.C., a distinguished Winnipeg lawyer, former chair of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and an active member of PEN Canada’s Canadian Issues Committee. The prize is funded by Cynthia Wine, and former PEN Canada President, Philip Slayton, and juried by the current members of the Canadian Issues Committee. Desmond Cole received the award in 2017 for his work both as a journalist and activist. In 2016, the prize was awarded to author and blogger Raihan Abir, who fled Bangladesh to Canada in 2015 after receiving a series of death threats. The inaugural winner was the artist and environmentalist, Franke James.

Brake will formally receive the prize at PEN Canada’s upcoming annual general meeting on June 14, 2018.

Additional Information
PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize
2017 Winner Desmond Cole
2016 Winner Raihan Abir
2015 Winner Franke James (Inaugural)