Heather Robertson, whose name has become synonymous for championing the rights of freelancers through her fronting of a 12-year class action against some of Canada's largest media companies, has been presented with the Graeme Gibson Award by The Writers' Union. It is only the 3rd time that that the award has been given out since its inception in 1991. According to a story in Quill & Quire:
Robertson received the award for her role as plaintiff in two class-action lawsuits on behalf of freelance writers whose work was used in online databases without their permission or payment.
Because of Robertson’s 13 years of advocacy efforts, the Thompson Corporation was required in 2009 to pay $11 million to print-publication freelancers, including those at the Globe and Mail, whose work had been reproduced online without consent. On May 3, 2011, the Toronto Star, Rogers Publishing, Canwest, and others, were ordered by the Ontario Court to pay a $7.9-million settlement, nicknamed Robertson 2.
Robertson is a founding member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Aside from being a freelance journalist, she is the author of Reservations Are for Indians and Walking in the Wilderness.
It takes nothing away from the award that the Robertson case, as it became known, was something of a Pyrrhic victory since publishers simply henceforth changed contract language that demands "all rights" from freelancers in order to work for them. However, Robertson's courage and tenacity may provide an example in the long term for all freelancers to stick up for their rights and demand reasonable treatment and fair compensation.The Graeme Gibson Award is named for the novelist and one of the founding organizers of The Writers' Union (and its chair 1974-75).