Make a contribution to the Writers' Trust of Canada Donate Now

Journalist Tanya Talaga wins Writers’ Trust’s $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

Seven Fallen Feathers called “a document of our times,” named best political book of 2017

May 9, 2018Ottawa – The Writers’ Trust of Canada announced tonight that Tanya Talaga has won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for her book Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City, published by House of Anansi Press. The announcement was made at the annual Politics and the Pen gala at Ottawa’s Fairmont Château Laurier. The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize is sponsored by CN.

A jury composed of University of Victoria professor of Indigenous governanceTaiaiake Alfred, former Shaughnessy Cohen Prize winner and University of Toronto professor Joseph Heath, and political journalist and commentator Kady O’Malley selected the winner. Their citation reads:

Tanya Talaga’s powerful book is a hard-hitting story of the realities of Canadian racism, complicity, and Indigenous suffering. It is also a testament to the resilience of the Anishinaabe families who endure the crushing impacts of historic and contemporary injustices. In spare prose and a direct voice, Talaga documents the tragedies of the lost lives of Indigenous youth while creating a compelling narrative that educates the reader on the sad history of Indigenous-White relations. This book is a crucial document of our times, and vital to the emergence of a true vision of justice in Canada.

For more information on the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize winner and finalists, and to download images of the nominees and their books, please visit

About the Author

Tanya TalagaTanya Talaga has been a journalist at the Toronto Star for 20 years. She won the RBC Taylor Prize and was a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and BC National Award for Canadian Nonfiction for Seven Fallen Feathers. She has been nominated five times for the Michener Award in public service journalism and has twice won a National Newspaper Award for her work as part of a team. Talaga is the 2017-2018 Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy and will deliver the 2018 Massey Lectures, which are based on the work she did as an Atkinson Fellow. She lives in Toronto.

About the Book

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya TalagaIn 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied. More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.


Four finalists for this year’s prize received $2,500 each:

Dummitt, Christopher- UnbuttonedChristopher Dummitt
Unbuttoned: A History of Mackenzie King’s Secret Life
published by McGill-Queen’s University Press

Off, Carol - All We Leave BehindCarol Off

All We Leave Behind: A Reporter’s Journey into the Lives of Others
published by Random House Canada

Perron, Sandra - Out Standing in the FieldSandra Perron

Out Standing in the Field: A Memoir by Canada’s First Female Infantry Officer
published by Cormorant Books

Rowe, Ted - Robert BondTed Rowe

Robert Bond: The Greatest Newfoundlander
published by Creative Book Publishing/Breakwater Books

About the Prize

Now in its 18th year, the prize is awarded annually for a book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life. The winning work combines compelling new insights with depth of research and is of significant literary merit. The prize particularly values books which provide the general reader with an informed, unique perspective on the practice of Canadian politics, its players, or its principles.

The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing was established in honour of the outspoken and popular Member of Parliament from Windsor, Ontario.

About Politics and the Pen

Politics and the Pen is a highlight of the capital’s social calendar and an important annual fundraising event benefiting the Writers’ Trust. Held at the Fairmont Château Laurier, the event attracts 500 guests from Canada’s political and literary circles. Three platinum sponsors are crucial to the night’s success: dinner sponsor Microsoft Canada, reception sponsor CIBC, and prize sponsor CN. To date, Politics and the Pen has raised more than $3.7 million to support the programs of the Writers’ Trust.

About the Writers’ Trust of Canada

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs including literary awards, a fellowship, financial grants, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country.


For more information and interview opportunities contact:

Michaela Cornell, 647-274-6112

Writers' Trust Sponsorship

Interested in Corporate
or Foundation sponsorship?

For more details about opportunities, recognition, and to see a list of our current sponsors...More


Recommended Reading List

We asked some of Canada's finest writers about what they are intending to read this summer. 

Read their Recommendations.


E Newsletter Sign Up

Sign-up for our eNewsletter. Get info about Authors and our latest Events.

Sign up now!

Site design & development supported by

ecentricarts inc