Tanya Talaga wins $30,000 RBC Taylor Prize for non-fiction writing

Toronto journalist Tanya Talaga won the $30,000 RBC Taylor Prize on Monday and dedicated her speech to the subjects of the book she wishes she “did not have to write” — seven Indigenous youth who died under suspicious circumstances while attending high school in Thunder Bay, Ont., from 2000 to 2011.

“Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City” (House of Anansi) delves into the history of Indigenous students being forced to leave their remote communities in northern Ontario so they can get an education hundreds of kilometres away in a foreign city.

“I am probably one of the only people to win this beautiful award to say that I wish I did not have to write this book, but I did. I had to,” Talaga said in her acceptance speech for the non-fiction prize.

“It was something that I felt I must do, for many reasons. But those reasons I am going to tell you right now, there are seven of them: Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Paul Panacheese, Robyn Harper, Kyle Morrisseau, Jordan Wabasse, Reggie Bushie. All of you, the seven fallen feathers.”

“Seven Fallen Feathers” was also a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

RBC Taylor Prize jury members called it “detailed, balanced and heart-rending.”

“Talaga describes gaps in the system large enough for beloved children and adults to fall through, endemic indifference, casual racism and a persistent lack of resources. It is impossible to read this book and come away unchanged.”

Established in 1998, the RBC Taylor Prize is named after the late Canadian essayist Charles Taylor.

Talaga beat out four other finalists for the prize, including James Maskalyk for “Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine” (Doubleday Canada) and Max Wallace for “In the Name of Humanity” (Allen Lane Canada). The other finalists were Daniel Coleman for “Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place” (Wolsak and Wynn), and Stephen R. Bown for “Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on Bering’s Great Voyage to Alaska” (Douglas & McIntyre). They each receive $5,000.

Talaga, a Toronto Star investigative journalist who is of Polish and Indigenous descent, said her book is centred around Thunder Bay but is a broader story about Canada and broken treaties.

“This is 2018 and we are still fighting for the right to get an education for all of our kids,” said Talaga, whose great-grandmother, Liz Gauthier, was a residential school survivor.

“We still move our kids from northern First Nations communities into the cities away from their language, their families and their homes just so they can get a high school education, which is the right of every other child in this country.”

Just Posted

“Nothing can take away the horror and the anguish,” says Amanda Lindhout’s mother

Lorinda Stewart reacts to 15-year jail sentence for daughter’s kidnapper

Amanda Lindhout kidnapper sentenced to 15 years in prison

OTTAWA — A Somalian man found guilty in the kidnapping of Amanda… Continue reading

Police suspect fire at mosque in Alberta town was deliberately set

EDSON, Alta. — RCMP in Alberta say they’re investigating an arson at… Continue reading

Indigenous protesters in Washington declare Trans Mountain won’t be built

VANCOUVER — Cedar George-Parker remembers the moment he decided to devote his… Continue reading

In Bill Morneau’s riding, 40 per cent of children live in poverty, report says

OTTAWA — Four in every 10 children residing in Finance Minister Bill… Continue reading

WATCH: Central Alberta High School Soccer League champs crowned

Lindsay Thurber girls’ team and Notre Dame boys’ team won Saturday at Edgar Park Field in Red Deer

Roll out the barrels: Christo artwork floats on London lake

LONDON — The ducks, geese and hardy cold-water swimmers in London’s Hyde… Continue reading

Just For Laughs production company promotes COO Bruce Hills to president

MONTREAL — The production company behind Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival… Continue reading

Auto parts firm Magna plans electric vehicle joint ventures with Chinese company

AURORA, Ont. — Magna International Inc. says it will form two new… Continue reading

Collection featuring Group of Seven paintings donated to University of Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess spent a lifetime following her… Continue reading

5 dead as SUV chased by Border Patrol crashes in South Texas

BIG WELLS, Texas — At least five people were killed and several… Continue reading

Ramifications of a trade war: an expert look at the numbers for Canada

OTTAWA — A new analysis of escalating trade disputes involving the United… Continue reading

Deliberate spill: study launched to test crude and bitumen impact on lake life

KENORA, Ont. — Researchers were in northwestern Ontario over the weekend spilling… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month