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  • Writer's pictureBilly Beringia

$2.7M payday for CBC journalist

WHITEHORSE - Top journalist lured into retirement by massive payout

Nancy Thomson on vacation in Victoria, BC on July 12 (Photo: Nancy Thomson)

On June 26, Yukon's top investigative journalist, Nancy Thomson, announced she was retiring from the CBC.

The announcement came as a surprise to Yukoners, many of whom speculated on social media that Thomson's early retirement was sparked by the resignation on June 8 of Yukon Morning host Christine Genier in protest at alleged systemic racism within the CBC.

That speculation has now been laid to rest. In a photo posted to her Facebook page on July 12, Thomson can be seen standing beside a bright red Ferrari F150 sports car in Victoria, B.C. A brief statement beside the photo reads "nothing changes, no point carrying on, took the money from McPhee and am enjoying it."

"Nothing changes, no point carrying on, took the money from McPhee and am enjoying it." - Nancy Thomson, former CBC Yukon journalist

The Facebook post prompted the release of a public statement on Tuesday from Yukon Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee. In her statement, McPhee revealed that the Department of Justice struck a deal with Thomson where she was paid a fee of $2.7M in exchange for a lifelong ban on conducting investigative journalism in the Yukon.

McPhee did not divulge the exact details of the deal but claimed it was made with the blessing of all political parties as well as directors, assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers across all government departments.

Taxpayer savings

"This deal will ultimately save the taxpayer money" McPhee said. "Year after year we spend millions of dollars on lawyers, lawsuits and settlements in order to hide government incompetence."

"Thomson was the only real investigative journalist in the Yukon and a constant thorn in our side. Her exposure of the youth group home scandal in 2018 was the last straw. That debacle caused major headaches and forced us into a humiliating public apology."

McPhee was referring to Thomson's April 2018 exposé on the mistreatment of youth at the Yukon Government's group homes. At the time, Stephen Samis, deputy minister of Health and Social Services, made public statements to the effect that the whistleblowers and children coming forward were liars. He also fired or suspended managers who reported mistreatment to him and was responsible for a raid on the offices of a youth walk-in service in Downtown Whitehorse.

As a reward for his conduct, Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost allowed Samis to keep his job which, according to the Yukon Government's pay grid for deputy ministers, nets between $182,079 and $243,581 a year.

Minister McPhee in the legislative assembly in October 2019 boasting about how much money her department spends on incompetence and cover-ups (Photo: Jeff Bursley)

Maligned in Yukon, celebrated outside

During her 27 years as a journalist with CBC Yukon, Thomson earned herself a reputation as someone who made politicians uncomfortable with her skillful questioning. She was much maligned by government communications directors for having the audacity to seek out information that the public had a right to know.

Amongst her fellow journalists in the Yukon, Thomson was dubbed a "muckraker" because she did her job and refused to compromise on journalistic integrity. Outside of the Yukon, she was recognized and celebrated for the quality of her work. In 2018 she was nominated for a prestigious Michener Award, an honour that recognizes excellence in public service journalism.

Unlike other journalists in the Yukon who claim to cover societal injustice, politics and the courts, Thomson was not in the habit of simply copying and pasting news releases, Facebook posts and court decisions into news articles.

"With Thomson out of the picture" McPhee said in her statement "politicians and civil servants no longer expect to be questioned, probed and held to account by the media."

"Thomson was someone who took pride in her work. She did research, built relationships and cared about the truth. She won't be missed."

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Journalism is an act, not a profession.

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