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. 26

Every year exceptional Langarans are recognized through the Outstanding Alumni Awards. Past winners include comedian Colin Mochrie, former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, and broadcast journalist Simi Sara.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Kelley Lee

    Kelley Lee

    Langara Alum | Global Health Researcher

    Dr. Kelley Lee is an internationally renowned expert in global health, named among the world’s 50 key thinkers on globalization, 100 Women Leaders in Global Health, and top Canadian Women in Global Health List in 2018. She joined the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in 2011 as Associate Dean, Research and Director of Global Health. She is currently a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Health Governance. Her research focuses on the need to strengthen collective action to address global health challenges including tobacco control, communicable disease outbreaks, and antimicrobial resistance. She is presently co-leading a project, in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, to study commercial tobacco use in five BC First Nations communities. Prior to SFU, she was a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK where she spent over 20 years. She was a core member of two major studies at the World Health Organization, co-establishing the WHO Collaborating Centre on Global Change and Health, and chairing the WHO Resource Group on Globalization, Trade, and Health. She has authored over 120 peer reviewed papers, 60 book chapters, and 14 books. She is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

    Read more
  • Judy Boxler

    Judy Boxler

    Retired Employee | Problem Solver

    Judy is the founder and developer of the Langara Computer Technology Diploma program. She was the original computer science coordinator in Langara’s Math, Statistics and Computer Science department, and became the first Department Chair of the Computer Science when it became its own independent department. She also served in various academic leadership capacities, including Division Chair of Math and Sciences and as a member of the Langara Faculty Association Board for several years. Outside of Langara, she has volunteered with agencies such as the BC Cancer Agency, One to One Literacy, and St. John Hospice at UBC. Judy now lives on Pender Island where she volunteers as Duty Officer in the emergency program, serves as a Member of the Board of Directors at the Pender Post, and serves as Librarian on the Board of Directors of the Pender Island Choir.

  • Guy Robertson

    Guy Robertson

    Current Employee | Instructor & Emergency Management Consultant

    Guy is a Director of the Alcuin Society, which is dedicated to the world of fine printing and rare books. He is a multidisciplinary instructor at Langara and has taught courses on rare books and bibliography, archives, museum studies, records management, reference services, and readers’ advisory, Indigenous references, disaster planning, and information security. He has published several books and dozens of articles on different aspects of disaster response, business continuity, corporate security, risk management, fraud and forgery detection, and post-disaster recovery. He is an internationally experienced emergency management consultant and planner. Guy has managed the library at Thurber Engineering Ltd in Vancouver since 1982 in addition to teaching at Langara. In 2011, he became an instructor in information management and security in the School of Public Safety at the Justice Institute of British Columbia. In 2016, he joined TMC IT & Telecom Consulting Ltd. to provide information security, records management, and disaster planning services to a broad range of clients.

View all

Thank You ToOur Partners

49 Langarans Contributing Sponsor

49 Langarans Friend/Community Partner

49 Langarans Media Partners