Kerrisdale school holds ceremony in memory of Canadian journalist

Magee secondary school commemorates late alumnus who died in warzone

Catherine Lang, Michelle's aunt, delivers a speech at the event in Magee Secondary School. Kristen Holliday Photo
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Reported by Kristen Holliday

A Kerrisdale school is remembering the only Canadian journalist who died in the War in Afghanistan.

Magee Secondary School held a Remembrance Day event on Thursday, Nov. 8 to honour one of its alumni, Michelle Lang, who was killed while on assignment to cover the war. 

A plaque was unveiled during the ceremony, which will be permanently placed in the school to commemorate the journalist. Lang’s family and friends were in attendance, along with Member of Parliament for Vancouver-Granville, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

An inspiring journalist

In front of a full auditorium of students and faculty, Catherine Lang, Lang’s aunt and a former Langara Journalism School graduate, spoke about Lang’s life, career, and the assignment in Afghanistan.

She said Lang was aware of the dangers, but knew it was important to tell Canadians the stories of ordinary Afghan people.

 “She loved to learn, and wanted to see that the women and girls would finally be able to get an education after five years of brutal Taliban rule. If she could write about those people and their stories, maybe Canadians would pay attention,” Catherine said. “Maybe Canadians would care more, and better understand why we were there fighting that long and messy war.”

Lang, an SFU graduate, started her journalism career at the Prince George Free Press. She moved on to the Moose Jaw Times Herald and then the Calgary Herald, where she worked on the health beat before accepting a six-week assignment in Afghanistan.

Lang’s mother, Sandra Lang, said her daughter was interested in writing and current events from a young age.

 “We’ve always had two newspapers coming into the house, we discussed a lot of news at the time,” Sandra said. “She was very well informed, and she loved to write.” 

‘A tenacious yet kind reporter’

Catherine said politicians and officials “learned to duck” when they saw her coming. 

“She lambasted them on many occasions, and drew attention to the shortcomings in the delivery of healthcare in Alberta,” she said. “She worked incredibly hard, and was often the last reporter to leave the office.” 

Kelly Cryderman, a Globe and Mail journalist and a former colleague of Lang’s at the Calgary Herald, also reported from Afghanistan. She said Lang did a lot of research before going overseas.

“She met with everyone who had been there already and peppered them with questions,” Cryderman said. 

“We often talked about the dangers, but we talked about the important stories too, about women, about poverty, about the Canadian Forces’ work there, about telling Canadians as much as we could about what was going on a world away.” 

Cryderman said she remembers Lang as a tenacious yet kind reporter, who cared about accuracy and communicating the facts.

“I’ll never forget her sitting across from me, and her beautiful smile, and her interest in everything,” Cryderman said. 

In December 2009, Lang left for Afghanistan. She had only been in the country for two weeks when the light armoured vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a series of improvised explosive devices.

Lang and four Canadian soldiers were killed.

Catherine Lang says the event has left an “inescapable” impact on her family. 

“We lost a loved one. Canada lost a fine journalist,” Catherine said. “I carry it with me all the time, as of course do all her family and friends. It comes with a sense that life is ever so fragile and that we are obliged to be vigilant in preserving it.”

 

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