Comox Valley Record reporter Erin Haluschak is a finalist for a Jack Webster Award.
Her article, Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation, has been named in the Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Reporting.
The article highlighted Danita Bilozaze’s efforts to reclaim her family name, which had been changed by the residential school system.
“I first came across Danita Bilozaze’s story on social media; I saw a post she made in the spring about her experience trying to get a passport,” said Haluschak. “In addition to the massive bureaucratic hurdles and colonial roadblocks she described, she also mentioned she was the first person in Canada to reclaim her Indigenous name on the document. Just by reading her post online, I was shocked by what she went through and the tenacity she displayed to fight for her rights — a fight that she shouldn’t have to do.
“Also, to be the first person in the country who resides in the Valley to have her new passport through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action is incredible, along with her willingness and desire to share her story.”
Haluschak said she was impressed by Bilozaze’s openness and willingness to discuss the topic, when the two met for an interview.
“As I met Danita for coffee we talked about her experience with various levels of government and if sharing her story would be another layer of responsibility placed on her in order to unnecessarily educate others,” said Haluschak. “Her grace, resilience, determination and willingness to not only bring about change on a federal level but to openly share her story for others to hear and learn is something not only to be admired, but to learn from and remember.”
This is the second nomination for Haluschak, who was also named as a finalist in 2015 for her three-part I’tustolagalis – Rising Up, Together series, which covered the reconciliation ceremony and demolition of St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay.
Haluschak said she recognizes the importance of being a voice for her community.
“I think particularly as journalists, it is imperative that we tell stories reflective of our community and amplify the voices of those around us, in a variety of ways,” she said. “Particularly as a non-Indigenous journalist, I have committed to the ongoing work of learning and listening, objectively looking at the stories, power and privilege in media and to find ways to improve my interactions and storytelling in ways that are healthy and respectable to the community I am working in.”
Haluschak is the only Black Press reporter named as a finalist for a Jack Webster this year.
The Webster Awards honour the best journalism in print, radio, television and online in British Columbia.