49 Langarans

49Langaran

Gordon Hoekstra

Langara Alum | Investigative Journalist

Award winning Vancouver Sun investigative journalist Gordon Hoekstra says graduating from Langara College in 1992 and getting his first journalism job at the Prince George Citizen was a “huge turning point” in his life. So was his first major investigation. Below, Hoekstra answers questions about his early, award-winning work on logging truck safety. The series of 35 stories, called Dying for Work, earned The Citizen a Michener Award in 2006.

How did you first find out about the logging truck safety issue?

While I was at the Citizen I was covering the forest industry in general. The softwood lumber dispute was happening, and lumber prices and mills closing down were in the news.

There were also times when I would hear from someone in the community or through the RCMP that a log truck driver had been killed in an accident. One day I made a list about how many people had been killed and it wasn’t insignifcant.

What did you do after making the list?

I asked the then-Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) for statistics about deaths. I seem to recall they said, ‘Well, it’s hard to give you that information because we don’t keep it that way.’”

I got some information, but it wasn’t useful, so I started asking more questions. Whenever someone says ‘no’ to a reporter, it makes you want to dig more.

How did you continue your investigation with limited access to data?

I started having conversations with truckers, who told me about working long hours on narrow roads. ‘It’s always push, push, push,’ they said. They really felt they were working around the clock.

That’s not very safe, so I started making a serious effort to find out how many people had died that decade. I went through the newspaper database, started requesting coroners reports and made freedom of information (FOI) requests for WCB investigation reports.

What did you find out from the FOI requests?

In about a half dozen of the deaths there had been quite significant recommendations made trying to address safety issues, yet very little action had been taken.

There had been specific recommendations about roads, so I took two or three trips out to those sites. One time I actually brought a big tape measure and measured the road.

What was the impact of the series that followed?

I wrote stories about how around two dozen drivers had died in a decade, how drivers were expected to continue to die, about the industry, and how things could have been fixed and they weren’t. As a result, the province hired a forestry coroner and announced more than $20 million in upgrades to forestry roads.

The impact the investigation had is the kind of thing that fuels my journalism.

Courtesy of Black Press Media

49 Facts — NO. 23

In 1985 Langara Journalism graduate Wendy Long became the first female sports writer at the Vancouver Sun, where she went on to cover six Olympic games. She was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Stephanie Ovsenek

    Stephanie Ovsenek

    Langara Alum | Nutrition Management Leader

    Stephanie is currently the BC Representative of the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management and a past President of the Pacific Society of Nutrition Management. She completed the Nutrition & Food Service Management program at Langara. Between summer semesters, Stephanie gained valuable experience and insight as a Sales Representative for Charles Masson Inc., allowing her to better understand the needs of food service providers across the healthcare sector. The dedication she showed during her practicum at Vancouver General Hospital led to a supervisor position upon graduation, where she managed a team of twenty people. In 2006, Stephanie spearheaded a program at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, training at-risk women for careers in the food service industry. This experience steered her to a position with Marquise Hospitality as a Quality Assurance Manager and finally on to the WestCana Services/Proadmin team, where she performed various operational roles leading to her current position as Director of Compliance & Quality Assurance. She is a strong advocate for volunteerism and believes that grassroot participation makes a real difference. In the past she was the Board President for both Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Centre in Vancouver and Sunset Heights Cooperative Housing.

    Read more
  • Kevin Loring

    Kevin Loring

    Langara Alum | Indigenous Theatre Pioneer

    Kevin is the Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the first national Indigenous theatre department in the world. A member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation, he is an accomplished Canadian playwright, actor, and director. He has written several plays, including Where the Blood Mixes, exploring the intergenerational effects of the residential school system, for which he won the 2009 Governor General’s Award for English Language Drama as well as three Jessie Richardson awards. Previously, he served as co-curator of the Talking Stick Festival; Artist in Residence at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre; and Artistic Director of the Savage Society. Kevin also acted as Playwright in Residence at the National Arts Centre; Documentary Producer of Canyon Wars: The Untold Story; and Project Lead/Creator and Director of the Songs of the Land, a project in his home community of Lytton First Nation exploring the 100-year old audio recordings of songs and stories of the Nlaka’pamux people.

  • Glen Coulthard

    Glen Coulthard

    Langara Alum | Academic Writer

    Glen is an Associate Professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Political Science departments at the University of British Columbia. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Victoria and is an accomplished writer in Indigenous and contemporary political theory. His book Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition has won multiple awards, including the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Frantz Fanon Award for Outstanding Book, the Canadian Political Science Association’s CB Macpherson Award for Best Book in Political Theory, and the Rik Davidson Studies in Political Economy Award for Best Book. Glen is also a co-founder of Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, a decolonial, Indigenous land-based post-secondary program operating on his traditional territories in Denendeh (Northwest Territories).

View all

Thank You ToOur Partners

49 Langarans Contributing Sponsor

49 Langarans Friend/Community Partner

49 Langarans Media Partners