York law students help free Phillion

Romeo Phillion, who has served 31 years in jail for a murder he says he didn’t commit, was set free July 21, thanks to students involved in York University’s Innocence Project. News of his release made headlines July 22 in all major Canadian media including The Globe and Mail,  the National Post, the Toronto Star and a wide variety of broadcast outlets. There was also a feature documentary about the Innocence Project’s work on this case on CBC TV’s The National. Phillion was released on bail while federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon reviews his case. Cauchon has appointed a member of the Nova Scotia law reform commission to examine the documents generated by Phillion’s lawyers and Osgoode Hall Law School students with the Innocence Project. The documents include a police report that was suppressed during Phillion’s trial. The report confirmed that he was hundreds of kilometres away at the time the killing of firefighter Leopold Roy took place in Ottawa in 1967. York’s Osgoode Hall Law School established the first Innocence Project in Canada to review cases of possible wrongful convictions. It is co-directed by Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Dianne Martin.

Feds owe First Nations billions, says prof

CBC Radio’s Jody Porter interviewed Fred Lazar, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, July 18, about his contention before the standing committee on Aboriginal Affairs in Toronto that the federal government owes First Nations billions more dollars each year. Lazar said federal government policies are largely responsible for creating slum living conditions on reserves across the country. He said the proposed new governance act is “an extension of the sort of paternalistic, colonial policies that have been part of this country and it has nothing to do with trying to restore democracy or improve the economic welfare of the people. It has more to do with changing the nature of control by Ottawa of what happens within the First Nations communities.” Lazar said the federal government should revisit all the treaties and negotiate settlements. But this won’t happen, “not in my lifetime,” because there’s no incentive for Ottawa to take this extreme position, he said.

Lazar also commented in a Globe and Mail story July 22 about Nav Canada’s plans to increase air traffic control service fees and introduce a $4-million credit limit on customers. He said he believed a fee increase and credit limit will have to be negotiated in the Air Canada bankruptcy proceedings because Nav Canada is an unsecured creditor.

On air

  • CBC Radio in Sydney, NS, and Vancouver, BC, aired an interview July 18 with Martin Shadwick, defence analyst with the York Centre for International & Security Studies, about sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan on one of the largest and potentially most dangerous peace-keeping missions in Canadian history.
  • CBC Newsworld interviewed Saeed Rahnema, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, July 18, about who may have been responsible for the death in Iran of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian photographer.