Almost every spring for the past 14 years, come rain or shine, the Nation has attended the Quebec Community Newspapers Association’s (QCNA) annual awards dinner. A quick count reveals over 60 awards nailed to our newsroom walls, including citations for outstanding writing, photography, sales performance under fire, and selfless public service.
There is no mention on any of the framed certificates of years of boorish, embarrassing behaviour in front of other serious professional journalists. The Nation, it seems, has made it a tradition to raise a little hell at these events. Not unlike the inebriated relative at the family holiday dinner who everyone begrudgingly tolerates. The raucous Nation table always draws stares and glares or an angry hiss to quiet a loud offender — usually before dessert and coffee. Aaaaah, fond, if somewhat fuzzy, memories.
The festivities took place again on the good ship Le Cavalier Maxim, a double-decker riverboat that cruises up and down the St. Lawrence River several times a day. Once aboard, cocktails were served immediately. On the menu: filet-mignon and salmon, exquisitely presented and served by uniformed staff. Once the boat left its mooring the ceremony began. Sadly, William Nicholls and Steve Bonspiel were the only ones nominated for their work at this year’s QCNAs.
The Nation’s first award was silver for Best Feature Page. Steve Bonspiel’s The Balance of Power, a feature story about Native women from across the Americas meeting in Kahnawake, was designed by Richard Lawson. The judges called it “captivating, with good photos and art and a very appealing layout.”
Nicholls received the coveted Bronze Quill Award for his long service at his publication and QCNA. There was little time for him to express his appreciation though several quick photographs were taken. Nicholls also received 2nd place for Best Editorial (General) for his Silent Crime of Child Poverty.
Bonspiel nabbed another 2nd place win in the Best News Story category. This one for a piece he wrote on the troubled Cree community of Kashechewan.
Bonspiel would go on to win Best Education Story (another 2nd place) about Cree and Inuit teachers getting tax breaks. And he also won, yet another 2nd place, for Best Sports Story, which was judged an “important, inspiring story.”
Shortly after dinner, the Eastern Door’s Kenneth Deer stood up and almost sadly announced his semi-retirement from journalism and the sale of his Mohawk newspaper. He informed everyone that he was passing the torch to the Nation’s Steve Bonspiel and his sexy fiance Tracey Deer, best known for such films as the ever-controversial One More River and Mohawk Girls. Those Mohawks, they know how to stick together.
The evening took an emotional turn when Nicholls, in his capacity as editor-in-chief, presented outgoing Nation copy editor and sometime editorialist, Lyle Stewart with a parting gift – a gorgeous pair of Cree mittens sewn by Eliza Webb. A shocked and touched Stewart took several long moments to recover from this heartfelt gesture. Sniffle, sniffle.
This year’s Master of Ceremonies, Dennis Trudeau, performed his duties admirably and coolly. He called for peace and quiet only once when he admonished our table along with a promise that the formalities would soon be over and then we would be free to drink and dance, marking our silver-lined victories.
Our ship arrived at port right on schedule and we disembarked. It was still early so the Nationites rushed the Irish Embassy, a well-stocked pub on Bishop Street. Here, Nicholls claims he astonished the Irish crowd with his rhythmic jigging. It was the only moment of the night that we placed 1st.