Margaret Evans is an influential foreign correspondent known for her journalistic integrity and deep (and humane) curiosity about the world. One of the CBC’s most experienced conflict journalists, Evans has reported on war and strife from the Sudan to Ukraine, Crimea and Chechnya. She has covered the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.
Incredibly, in 2014, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history. Well, not exactly. Evans actually earned her BA in 1989, but failed to apply for convocation. An oversight; corrected in 2014.
“Yes, that’s typical me,” says Evans. “I had no idea you had to actually APPLY for convocation! Exams passed, job done, and I would have been carrying on in ignorant bliss if it hadn’t been for a profile in [New Trail] alumni magazine.”
Journalism and public service run deep in Evans’ blood. Her father, Art Evans, was a 40 year veteran of the journalistic trade, most of it with the Edmonton Journal. Her mother, Una Maclean Evans, was three-term city council alderwoman and an influential figure within the Liberal Party of Alberta. Both were veterans of the Second World War.
“I grew up in a house full of books and storytelling and political discussion,” she says. “My parents were history buffs and were very engaged in the world around them. I suppose [my career path] was inevitable.”
“I grew up in a house full of books and storytelling and political discussion.”
Evans credits her liberal arts education with her “open and exploratory state of mind,” singling out history professors (now emeriti) Rod Macleod and Ken Munro for their passionate engagement with the subject matter.
While she recalls one professor discouraging her from attending grad school because she didn’t “have the right attitude,” Evans ignored the advice and did it anyway, completing her master’s degree in journalism at the University of London in 1991. She stayed on in Europe, intent on reporting from abroad as a freelancer.
In the early stages of her career, Evans covered the Balkan Wars from NATO headquarters in Brussels as well as the often fractious European Union negotiations, but would eventually broaden her journalist scope to the so-called conflict zones of the Middle East and Africa for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Evans is quick to point out that it’s not the conflict per se she reports on, but the people in the midst of conflict, and how they so often manage to endure the unendurable.
“Human nature can be so terribly despicable, but it can also be extraordinary,” she says. “I think it connects to when I was a kid — when my brother, sister and I would sometimes accompany our dad on his ‘rounds’ as a journalist. He always rooted for the underdog.”
Evans identifies the ongoing refugee crisis as one of the most important issues we face today — particularly in Syria, where in 2016, Evans spent considerable time reporting on the siege of Aleppo. “It challenges our notions of humanity,” she says.
“It challenges our notions of humanity.”
While the work can be unimaginably stressful, and at times, dangerous, Evans – who received the Amnesty International Canada Media Award for her work from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon in the CBC Dispatches program, The Paradox of Democracy – says the satisfaction comes on the “rare occasions” when an important piece of information actually makes a difference.
“Our recent coverage from South Sudan is an example of that,” she says. “It was overwhelming to see the response of Canadians answering the calls for help for that country and for others suffering from hunger.”
Now based out of CBC’s European Bureau in London, Evans is currently in Berlin, covering the 2017 German elections. “Not sure what’s around the corner after that,” she says, but for this true citizen of the world, one thing is certain — the story will continue.
You are invited to the 2017 Alumni Awards ceremony on Monday, September 25 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
Know another inspiring UAlberta grad? Nominate them for a 2018 Alumni Award. Deadline is Dec 15, 2017. Visit uab.ca/AlumniAwards.