Merit in seeking constitutional ruling on same-sex marriage

In the wake of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling allowing homosexual couples to marry, the federal Justice Department is considering drafting a law to recognize same-sex marriage and then using its special powers to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to quickly rule on its constitutionality, reported the National Post June 12. “I think there could be merit in that,” said Patrick Monahan, a constitutional law expert at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “It all depends on whether they have a question to ask.” Only Ottawa can make a reference directly to the top court. Taking the reference route means the government will not be able to seek a stay of the Ontario Court ruling, said Monahan. His remarks were carried in major dailies across Canada – from The Vancouver Sun to The Gazette in Montreal – in a story disseminated by CanWest News Service.

Nods replace handshakes at convocations

Putting aside decorum because of SARS fears, Toronto-area universities – including York – are eschewing the traditional handshake for a congratulatory nod at convocations this month, reported the National Post June 12. Bowing or nodding policies have been implemented at York University, the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario, while at Ryerson University, Chancellor John Craig Eaton has been tapping graduates on the arm with a ceremonial scroll while they are hooded. In addition, these universities have placed signs outside convocation halls asking guests not to enter if they are exhibiting any symptoms related to SARS, said the Post.

Abella doubts Mideast road map will succeed

Irving Abella, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry at York’s Centre for Jewish Studies, was one of several Mideast watchers polled by The Globe and Mail June 12 on the current attempt to forge an Israeli-Palestinian accord. Abella doubted the road map will succeed, given the hostility of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups. Nonetheless, he expected White House policy to remain on track, at least in the short term. “Bush is committed to going forward, so he has got to try and push it through, and pretend [the June 11 violence in Jerusalem and Gaza] hasn’t happened. But it’s very dubious, and if Bush is going to try and achieve anything, it’ll have to be in the next six months,” Abella told the Globe.

Stockwell will survive, predicts professor

Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, commented in two National Post stories June 12 about opposition parties’ calls for Ontario Environment Minister Chris Stockwell to resign. Opposition Liberals have said the minister misled the public over a family trip to Europe paid for by his riding association. MacDermid, an expert in campaign financing, said it was unusual to charge personal costs to a constituency association. The professor also predicted that Stockwell would survive the controversy. “The government has weathered many expenses questions – they have rolled off their backs – and the same is true of Chris Stockwell. He has a Teflon-resistance and I doubt if he is fatally wounded.” Nevertheless, MacDermid said, “If I was a contributor to the Conservative party, I wouldn’t be pleased to see my donation being used for personal expenses. Most people give for political purposes, not to pay for politicians’ holidays.”

Honesty and the native-tax ruling

Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, commented to The Globe and Mail June 12 after a controversial Federal Court decision, which granted widespread tax exemptions to thousands of natives, was overturned by the federal appeal court. Lazar said the case has broad importance because it could determine the validity of many native treaties and further legitimize oral history. “It really focuses on the verbal commitments that were made but not included in the written texts of the treaties,” Lazar said. The natives “just assumed they were dealing with honest people,” he said.

Hate law chills public discourse, prof says

Terry Heinrichs, a political science professor at York University’s Glendon College, described Canada’s hate law, designed to protect visible minorities, as an attack on free speech and said it should be overturned, reported the National Post June 12. The Post story, written in the wake of charges against native leader David Ahenakew for anti-Semitic remarks, focused on how seldom the hate law has been invoked. “It has been used against people protesting against America. It has been used against people protesting the French influence in Ontario. It has been used against a Christian evangelist. It has been used against people protesting against immigration. They are white males, basically, that they are prosecuting. Now that they have decided to prosecute Ahenakew, that would be [the] first time that they used it against any kind of visible minority…. I would love to see it overturned,” he said. “It presents a real chill to public discourse in the country.”

Religious ethics have a place in business

Religious ethics have a place in business, says Wesley Cragg, an ethics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. He spoke to the Toronto Star for a June 12 article about a Jewish study group that turns to the Torah for guidance about situations in the workplace. “What’s missing in the business world, and in business schools, is a systematic discussion of ethical responsibility,” Cragg said.

Labour-sponsored funds get a bad rap

A business columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press said June 12 that managers of the two Manitoba labour-sponsored venture capital funds take exception to findings of a study by finance professors Yisong Tian of York University’s Schulich School of Business and Scott Anderson of Ryerson University. The study says labour-sponsored venture capital funds underperform and manager compensation is likely the main culprit behind the poor performance. Tian and Anderson’s findings will appear in the fall edition of the Canadian Investment Review.