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The Writers' Trust of Canada's
Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing
Sponsored by CTVglobemedia
Winner: $25 ,000; Finalists: $3,500

Established in honour of the late, outspoken, and popular MP, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize is administered by The Writers' Trust of Canada and generously sponsored by CTVglobemedia. This award is presented for a non-fiction book that captures a subject of political interest to the Canadian reader and enhances our understanding of the issue. The winning work will combine compelling new insights with depth of research and be of significant literary merit. Strong consideration will be given to books that, in the opinon of the jury, have the potential to shape or influence Canadian political life. The prize is presented at Politics and the Pen in Ottawa in the spring.

2009 Winner

John English
Just Watch Me:
The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968-2000

Published by Knopf Canada

Winners 2000 - 2008 (plus 2008 finalists)

2008 Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing Winner

OTTAWA —4th March- James Orbinski has won the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century (Doubleday Canada). The book was also finalist for the 2008 Governor General's Literary Awards.

The other finalists were, Vancouver's Daphne Bramham, Erna Paris of Toronto, Marie Wadden of St. John's, N.L., and Chris Wood of Duncan, B.C. Each received $3,500 to do with as they please.

Orbinski was international president of Medecins sans frontieres (Doctors Without Borders/MSF) when the group received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. He has also probed medical and humanitarian crises around the world, and tended to victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

"James Orbinski takes us to a different world - where human beings attacked, mutilated, raped, tortured, dismembered and murdered their fellow citizens," Shaughnessy Cohen Prize jury members Chantal Hebert, William Johnson and David Walmsley wrote in a release.

"Dr. Orbinski was there, saw it, lived it. He returns from the heart of darkness as witness to horror absolute. With an artist's evocative sensibility, he takes us with him on his voyage through hell."

Orbinski is now a research scientist and associate professor of family and community medicine and political science at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto.

James Orbinski
An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century
Doubleday Canada

A volunteer and past president with Médecins Sans Frontièrs (Doctors Without Borders), Orbinski chronicles his frontline humanitarian work in international hotspots – a cholera epidemic in Peru, famine in Somalia, genocide in Rwanda. An Imperfect Offering finds unimaginable acts of hope, courage, and empathy in some of the darkest places of our history.

James Orbinski was international President of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) when they received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. He is a Research Scientist and Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Political Science at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto. He is a founder of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a not-for-profit pharmaceutical research and development entity focused on the diseases of the South. He recently founded Dignitas, an organization focused on community based treatment, care and prevention of HIV in the developing world. Dr. Orbinski lectures internationally on humanitarianism and global health.

2008 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing jury
(Chantal Hébert, William Johnson, and David Walmsley)

Our list of finalists featured books of exceptional quality. But James Orbinski, who grew up in Montreal and now teaches medicine in Toronto, takes us to a different world – where human beings attacked, mutilated, raped, tortured, dismembered and murdered their fellow citizens. Dr. Orbinski was there, saw it, lived it. He returns from the heart of darkness as witness to horror absolute.

His book relives the 1994 massacre of Rwanda’s Tutsis, when neighbours butchered neighbours with machetes, even slicing off hands and legs of their neighbours’ children, before the parents’ eyes.

Dr. Orbinski came to Rwanda to treat the sick but soon was swept into the vortex of a raging massacre. With an artist’s evocative sensibility, he takes us with him on his voyage through hell.

Though he exposes the depths of human depravity, always, in counterpoint, shines the vision of the idealist, the compassion of the humanitarian. He puts a human face on a poignant public policy dilemma, whether swords can be turned into ploughshares rather than ploughshares into swords. He takes us far from the corridors of power to the sharp end of reality, of Realpolitik.

In 1999, as international president of Médecins sans frontières, Dr. Orbinski accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace. Tonight, we honour not only his book, An Imperfect Offering, but the man who did us proud as Canadians and as human beings, Dr. James Orbinski.

Daphne Bramham
The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect
Random House Canada

In an exposé on a Mormon sect in Bountiful, British Columbia, Bramham unravels the story of Winston Blackmore, an outspoken polygamist who believes he and his religion are invincible, protected by the country’s constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. The Secret Lives of Saints challenges our notion of tolerance and explores the friction between religious freedom and individual rights.

Daphne Bramham has been a columnist at the Vancouver Sun since 2000. She won a national Newspaper Award for her column in June 2005. She was honoured by the non-profit group Beyond Borders in 2004 for a continuing series of columns on the polygamous community of Bountiful, British Columbia. Born in Saskatchewan, she lives in Vancouver with her partner, John Skinner. The Secret Lives of Saints was recently shortlisted for British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Erna Paris
The Sun Climbs Slow: Justice in the Age of Imperial America
Knopf Canada

Paris surveys international criminal justice, its history from ancient Greece to the Nuremburg Trials and beyond, and the politics behind America’s opposition to the recently created International Criminal Court. The Sun Climbs Slow grapples with an emerging dilemma: the tension between unchallenged political power and the rule of international law.

Erna Paris is the winner of ten national and international writing awards, including the White Award (Canada-U.S.) for journalism, a gold medal from the National Magazine Awards Foundation, and four Media Club of Canada awards for feature writing and radio documentary. She is the author of six previous acclaimed books of literary non-fiction, most recently Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, which won the Pearson Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for History. She lives in Toronto.

Marie Wadden
Where the Pavement Ends: Canada’s Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation
Douglas & McIntyre

Existing government policies to address problems of addiction affecting Aboriginal families and communities are ineffective. Where the Pavement Ends details how over the past fifteen years Canada’s Aboriginal healing community has emerged as a vital and visible force developing creative recovery programs across the country offering true support to marginalized First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.

Marie Wadden is CBC Radio’s network producer in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her research for this book was made possible by the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. Her first book Nitassinan: The Innu Struggle to Reclaim their Homeland, won the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction in 1991. Wadden lives in St. John's with her husband Chris Brown and their two children, Nicholas and Naomi.

Chris Wood
Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America
Raincoast Books

As the globe runs out of water many fast growing areas face deadly scarcity. In Dry Spring, Wood demonstrates how Canada overall will get more water and its neighbours less. He provocatively calls upon Canada to find solutions and opportunities jointly with America and describes inspiring choices by which we can save this precious resource for our future.

Chris Wood is a journalist and former Maclean’s editor and correspondent. He has written for the Globe and Mail, the Financial Post, The Walrus, and more. He co-authored Blockbusters and Trade Wars, which was a finalist for the Donner Prize, and, with Beverly Wood, wrote the Sirius Mystery teen books. He lives in the Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island, where he is active in local efforts to achieve a more sustainable community.

Past Recipients

2007 Janice Gross Stein & Eugene Lang for
The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar
2006 Max & Monique Nemni (authors), William Johnson (translator) for Young Trudeau: Son of Quebec, Father of Canada, 1919-1944
2005 Miriam Shuchman for The Drug Trial
2004 Jane Jacobs for Dark Age Ahead
2003 L Gen. Roméo Dallaire for Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
John Duffy for Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership and the Making of Canada
Daniel Poliquin, author, and Don Winkler, translator, for In the Name of the Father: An Essay on Quebec Nationalism
2000 Erna Paris for Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History

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