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. 17

Langara’s incredible VOLT volunteer program began as an initiative by two students in 2010. Since then, VOLT volunteers have logged 44,000 hours of volunteer time.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Jim Goard

    Jim Goard

    Retired Employee | Langara Pioneer

    Jim was Langara’s first Director of Information and Educational Technology, a position he held until he retired after 37 years of service. During his tenure, the department grew from a team of three people to an organization of over 50 who supported both administrative and instructional systems and resources. An active supporter of Langara’s Co-op Program, Jim hired many Langara students to work in the department. Jim was heavily involved in the ongoing implementation and support of the College’s many administrative systems, including those developed and acquired to support the operation of Langara when it separated from Vancouver Community College. Jim was also responsible for acquiring, implementing, and managing instructional computer resources and technology including computer labs, networks, and instructional software applications. A passionate advocate for cooperation and knowledge sharing, Jim was a founding member of the Higher Education Information Technology BC organization and was actively involved with its annual IT4BC conferences, BC’s premier conference for post-secondary education. For many years, Jim was also the Chair of the Langara College Administrators Association.

  • 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.

  • Lawrence Warren

    Lawrence Warren

    Retired Employee | Langara Pioneer

    Lawrence played an instrumental role in Langara becoming an independent College in 1994. Larry was President of the Langara Faculty Association (LFA) through almost all of the 1990s, including during the strike of Nov/Dec 1992. It was Larry’s political acumen and leadership that led the LFA to decide that this was the time to persuade the VCC Board and President to support the independence of Langara. They joined efforts to convince the provincial government to agree to the change, and Langara College was born. Larry also continued the LFA tradition of positive collaboration with management and established an excellent relationship with the new Langara College leadership and Board of Governors going forward.

View all

Thank You ToOur Partners

49 Langarans Contributing Sponsor

49 Langarans Friend/Community Partner

49 Langarans Media Partners