Malarek Merits John Syrnick Journalism Award

By John Pidkowich

Investigative Journalist Victor Malarek, Senior Reporter at CTV’s W-5, was presented with the John Syrnick Journalism Award on May 14, 2007 at the University of Toronto's Faculty Club.

In 2005, the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko launched the John Syrnick Journalism Award which recognizes a Canadian journalist who has researched and reported on issues of interest and relevance to the Ukrainian Canadian community. The award is named in honour of John Syrnick, who served as Editor of Ukrainian Voice newspaper from 1947 - 1970. The paper expressed the concerns of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Canadians who sought to define and promote the issues of their community within a strong and united multi-cultural Canada. Syrnick was a strong Canadian writer on the issues of multiculturalism in Canada. Many of his views and ideals are found in our laws and later enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.

In his welcome and opening remarks, Shevchenko Foundation President, Andrew Hladyshevsky, Q.C., stated that “Journalism is an important part of every society. Ukrainian Canadians have a voice … have stories. It is important that journalists look at what happens in today’s terms because today’s events are tomorrow’s history … The John Syrnick Journalism Award is for worthy recipients telling stories of significance to Canadians of Ukrainian origin … (and) to all Canadians.” Hladyshevsky explained further that “it falls under the mandate of the Shevchenko Foundation to state our place as Canadians of Ukrainian heritage that have a Canadian story to tell … the great journalism work of Victor Malarek are great Canadian stories and that is why the Syrnick Award exists.” 

Dr. Christine Turkewych named the selection committee members, and acknowledged those present. The list includes pre-eminent Canadian academics and community leaders, representing all regions of Canada and a readership of over one million people. After providing an overview of the adjudication process, Turkewych, as Chair of the award selection committee, was pleased to work with “wonderful, giving and thoughtful individuals” and also expressed her gratitude to the event volunteers.

 James Temerty, Chairman of Northland Power, introduced Victor Malarek and shared some of the writer’s life experiences and professional achievements. Drawing from his early boyhood in Lachine, Quebec, Temerty described some of the “stark experiences for a young man, setting in motion some kind of defence mechanisms, on guard thereafter from the dangers that lurk all around. I believe that stood (Malarek) in good stead in the dark alleys, dingy dives and the hills of Afghanistan as his investigative work unfolded.”

After a school beating from a teacher, Malarek’s mother asked her eleven year old son why these things are happening and his reply was “I know everything has a purpose and the time will come when that purpose will be clear to me.”  Temerty explained that teachers did not expect much from a street-hardened Malarek but his writing talent was evident early when he came in first place in a McGill University English Composition contest for Montreal high school students. Temerty retold the sadder account when Malarek was working as a copy boy for a news organization “running errands when one morning he stopped dead in his tracks, transfixed by a premonition.” Victor’s “gut instinct” told him his father, ill with cancer, had just died and indeed so confirmed upon the son’s arrival home. On this account, Temerty then stated with conviction “Now you have the makings of the great investigative journalist combining the writing talent that (Malarek) had revealed earlier with extra-sensory perception that he calls ‘gut instinct’.”

In meeting and conversation, Temerty recognized that Malarek “wears a tough exterior, but that comes with the territory. Inside, there is a softness and sensitivity and a spirituality. While not the regular churchgoer, he nevertheless is deeply interested in the matters of the spirit.”

Among his many awards, Temerty believes that one of Malarek’s most prized awards “would be his recent award given to him by the Temple Committee ... set up against human trafficking … whose goal is to ‘Redeem the Slave’. Victor received their first Victor Award, named in his honour.” Temerty conclude by stating that “Victor’s ‘purpose’ is now quite clear – ‘Fight the Good Fight’- and we can only hope that his purpose will continue for a long time to all our benefit. So, in honouring Victor tonight we also honour hope, justice, the triumph of will over adverse circumstances and a great example to young people everywhere!”

Victor Malarek has worked for The Globe and Mail, CBC Television’s fifth estate and is currently with CTV. Malarek is a four-time recipient of Michener Awards, three for meritorious public service in journalism and one for extraordinary investigative reporting. He received a Gemini Award in 1997 as Canada’s Top Broadcast Journalist. He is also a renowned author, his most recent book being The Natashas – The New Global Sex Trade (Viking), was published to critical acclaim in 2003.  In 2006, he was instrumental in the production of CTV’s W-5 documentary Forgotten Children which highlighted the plight of orphans in Ukraine.

Andrew Hladyshevsky stated that it was a privilege for him as President of the Shevchenko Foundation to call upon Victor Malarek to receive the Syrnick Award and requested James Temerty to present it and read aloud the inscription: “The Board of Directors of the Shevchenko Foundation present the John Syrnick Journalism Award to Victor Malarek of CTV’s W-5 in appreciation if his continual dedication to substantive research and reporting on issues of importance and relevance to Ukrainian Canadians.”

In his acceptance, Victor Malarek showed his softer side, humbled by the honour bestowed upon him and detected in his tone of voice. He expressed his thanks to the Shevchenko Board and appreciation for “really getting something from the ‘family’ and close friends.” Temerty’s “beautiful introduction maybe paid too much attention (to details of what had been said in conversation) or maybe I had too much wine!”  From Malarek’s thrust of the Holodomor Famine-Genocide on to the Canadian journalism scene with his front-page article in The Globe and Mail through to his recent book The Natashas and outcome of global human anti-trafficking initiatives, Malarek knows that everything that happens from what I do has a purpose. “And I know that (from) when I was eleven years old, everything is for a reason!”