Jonathan Pedneault

Jonathan Pedneault

At age 15, Jonathan (who also goes by JP) watched Hotel Rwanda. He decided something had to be done to prevent genocide. This led him to advocate in schools and beyond for greater action by Canada to prevent human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. As ethnic cleansing raged in Sudan’s Darfur region, he decided that’s where he should be heading. He was 17.

After crossing at night into Darfur from Chad with a group of Sudanese rebels at age 17 to co-produce a CBC documentary, JP went on to report on maritime geopolitics and the end of the Pax Americana in the Middle East. Between 2010 and 2012, he reported from Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia and Israel, among others. In 2011, he traveled to Cairo to report on the Tahrir revolution. Injured and detained, he was kicked out of the country. A few months later, he was back in the region to report from the frontlines of the Libyan revolution.

In 2015, JP was hired by Amnesty International to report on abuses in the Central African Republic. He had spent two years training local journalists there and in South Sudan, negotiating with rebels to build a new radio station in a war torn town and losing friends along the way. After 12 months with Amnesty, JP joined Human Rights Watch, with whom he reported on egregious abuses and war crimes in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and, most recently, Ukraine.

If that wasn’t clear already, JP loves adventure. Whether it’s to conquer a mountain peak, cross a river or enter clandestinely into a country to report on human rights violations, he’s your guy. But sometimes, he likes and needs calm too.

That’s why, after two years of work in the Central African Republic, he moved to… Svalbard, in the Norwegian high Arctic. He lived there for 2.5 years, traveling back and forth to war zones from his flat there, becoming friends with a good deal of the 2500 local inhabitants and none of the archipelago’s many polar bears.

With war comes trauma. In 2014, JP lost two close friends. Camille Lepage, a young French photographer, was killed while they both worked in the Central African Republic. He traveled with her body to France and met with her family. Three months later, Jim Foley, another friend he had shared a hotel room with in Tripoli in 2011 was cowardly murdered by the Islamic State in Syria. JP tried to turn this pain into something productive and wrote a very non-PC novel about a French journalist and his son’s quest to find him through time and space. The book, Toi Aussi Mon Fils, was published in 2017. JP speaks French, English, Spanish and… Norwegian. He’s now learning Russian and is determined to learn Inuktitut and Innu.

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