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. 36

More than 500,000 international students have found a home away from home with a Canadian family through Langara’s esteemed Homestay Program.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Gavin Jones

    Gavin Jones

    Langara Alum | Social Advocate & Business Leader

    Gavin is the Director of Operations at EMBERS, the Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society. He graduated from Langara College with a BBA in Business Management in 2017 and took on his role at EMBERS in 2018. EMBERS is a Vancouver-based charity and the only not-for-profit temporary staffing agency in Canada. Their mission is to create economic and employment opportunities for people living on low incomes. Through his work, Gavin helps thousands of people facing barriers to work by offering economic and employment opportunities including job placements, training, and support. Gavin is also on the Advisory Committee of the Company of Young Professionals for the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

    Read more
  • 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
  • Joseph Abercrombie

    Joseph Abercrombie

    Langara Alum | Sustainability Innovator

    Joe is the founder of Humane Solutions Inc., a sustainable, innovative wildlife management company. He has evolved from a student with a vision to a trailblazer in his industry in less than four years. Through his dedication and passion to make positive, sustainable impact, he has successfully grown his business from a part-time venture into a full-time cutting-edge business, offering a full suite of wildlife control solutions across Western Canada with a team of internationally qualified human-wildlife conflict specialists and wildlife technicians. His dedication to environmental sustainability and advocacy work on the discontinuation of poison as a method of pest control has earned Humane Solutions positive reviews in the Lower Mainland and in multiple publications, strategic partnerships with sustainable businesses and organizations across BC, and exploratory research collaborations involving various academic institutions and NGOs. Joe is a budding serial social entrepreneur. Using Humane Solutions as a catalyst, he intends to capitalize on his unique skills and privilege to drive as much social and environmental change as possible.

    Read more
View all

Thank You ToOur Partners

49 Langarans Contributing Sponsor

49 Langarans Friend/Community Partner

49 Langarans Media Partners