As It Happens

Canadian war correspondent Adam Day, 'the voice of many soldiers in Afghanistan,' dies at 42

Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese remembers his friend Adam Day, an award-winning war reporter who wrote about Afghanistan's impact on Canadians soldiers.
Military reporter Adam Day died in Toronto on July 5. (Etienne de Malglaive/Facebook )

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David Pugliese says he's a better journalist just for having known Adam Day.

"He was always pushing me to keep asking questions, to keep asking tougher questions, and I would say, 'You know, I don't have time for that,'" the Ottawa Citizen military reporter told As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch.

"So I think I'll remember him by continuing to push on and try to do the best reporting that I can."

Day, an award-winning military reporter for the Ottawa-based Legion Magazine, died in Toronto on July 5. He was 42.

With at least seven trips to Afghanistan under his belt, Day focused on what Pugliese called "ground-level" journalism — that is, chronicling what life is actually like for Canadian soldiers on the battlefield.

"Adam became what I would consider the voice of many soldiers in Afghanistan," Pugliese said of his friend. "Even though a lot of Canadians might not recognize his name, I think a lot of soldiers read what he was writing and appreciated his efforts."

He won the 2012 Ross Munro Media Award for his Afghanistan coverage in Legion Magazine and his book Witness To War.

Day encouraged his colleagues to be better journalists, says Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese. (Facebook)

But despite his comradery with the soldiers he covered, Day was not afraid to butt heads with the military's top brass. 

In 2007, Day wrote a 4,000-word ​exposé about Operation Medusa, a Canadian-led offensive in Kandahar Province that the military and government wildly hailed as a stunning victory for allied forces and a major blow to the Taliban.

"He was the one who essentially kind of broke this myth that this was this great kind of devastating blow to the Taliban," Pugliese said.

"He tracked down a lot of soldiers who took part in that battle, and they were still his friends to this day. They had a lot of respect to him for kind of putting that story out there in the public domain."

He also put himself at risk to tell the soldiers' stories.

In 2010, the Light Armoured Vehicle he was travelling in was hit by an improvised explosive device. The blast caused him to smash his head into the vehicle's roof, injuring his spine and breaking four of his teeth.

"He got his teeth fixed ... and he continued reporting, from other war zones as well," Pugliese said. "He kept going back. He had a real sense of curiosity, a sense of wanting to report on that war. I would have probably called it quits."

But his time on the front lines had an impact.

"It's fair to say he was dealing with emotional and psychological issues that were caused by his seven trips to Afghanistan, and I think those issues contributed to his death," Pugliese said.

Day's cause of death has not been publicly released.

In 2013, Day wrote a powerful feature about Master Cpl. Charles Matiru's struggle with PTSD and death by suicide. 

"And this was before PTSD issues were really out there and the issues about [the Department of National Defence] and Canadian Forces not taking care of some of the soldiers. And he wrote that the system failed this solider and he didn't have to die. This was groundbreaking journalism."

According to his obituary, Day is survived by his parents Wilfred Day and Margaret Cavan Day, sister Alexia, and niece Emilia, all of Port Hope, Ont., and his sister Patricia Ferrari, niece Lia, and nephew Alex of Whitby, Ont.

His family asks that those who wish to pay tribute to Day donate to Courageous Companions, a charity that provides certified service dogs to soldiers and first responders. 

Correction: A previous version of this story sated that David Pugliese wrote a 2013 feature about Master Cpl. Charles Matiru. In fact, Adam Day wrote it. 


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