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Martin O’Hanlon receives the CWA Canada Award of Excellence for 2024

Delegates to CWA Canada's annual National Representative Council salute Martin O'Hanlon as the inaugural winner of the union's Award of Excellence.

Martin O’Hanlon received the CWA Canada Award of Excellence at the CWA-Canada union convention in Moncton, New Brunswick.  

Martin began his 33-year career in union work as one of a handful of activists who founded both of Canada’s exclusively media-based unions, the Canadian Media Guild and CWA Canada, while balancing a demanding career as a reporter and editor at the Canadian Press.   

Martin started as a volunteer bargaining local and national collective agreements for The Canadian Press.  At CP he was an effective and outspoken union president, who used his wit and considerable charm to wring improvements out of reluctant managers. He brought the same intellectual rigor and organizational skills to the leadership table at the Canadian Media Guild.  A stickler for detail, with a journalist’s head for the facts and an uncommon facility for numbers, he wrote much of the CMG’s bylaws and constitution. He would later do the same for CWA Canada. For this work and his leadership skills, he earned the CMG’s Award of Excellence in 2020. 

Building CWA Canada  

During the years of building the CMG, Martin worked closely with the union’s CBC president Arnold Amber to find a home that would give long-term financial security to the growing guild. Leading a small team, the pair decided to join the Communication Workers of America. They created CWA Canada as a means of ensuring Canadian members would retain control of their future within the CWA U.S. family.  

Earning National and International Respect  

In subsequent years Martin earned the respect of the labour community with his commitment to the Canadian Labour Congress.  He sat on the CLC executive committee where he advocated for workers, especially those struggling with discrimination, racism, and precarious work.   

Through all of this, Martin also found the time to hold senior roles with the International Federation of Journalists. Here he made Canada proud, spearheading efforts to help media workers in crisis. He took this emotional work to heart, getting to know families personally, sending money, and building support for media workers in Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.  

Political and Regulatory Advocacy for Media  

During his long tenure as a union leader, Martin was an enthusiastic supporter of journalism advocacy groups. These largely non-profit groups depend on labor, industry, and community support to build respect for media workers.  

Martin worked closely with groups like the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Canadian Association of Journalism, and many others, to recognize and promote their crucial work.  

He has actively promoted improvements to pension plans and lobbied governments for better support for the media industry. His understanding of the media crisis contributed to the Public Policy Forum’s conclusion detailed in the “Shattered Mirror” report, that the industry desperately needs financial relief.  

Through the turbulent 2000’s Martin’s relentless advocacy was instrumental in persuading the federal government to offer financial aid to the industry and to begin forcing the internet giants to help pay for content creation in Canada. A fight that continues globally with Canada often cited as a leading voice.  

Carmel Smyth 
President, CWA Canada 
The Media Union 

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