Wesley Cragg leads group on business ethics

Our armed forces are overstretched. Our foreign policy is unfocused. Our international development budget is anemic, said the Toronto Star Feb. 6. But Wesley Cragg, professor of policy specialization with York’s Schulich School of Business, has a plan, said the Star. Cragg, who believes Canadian companies have a reputation for straight dealing, convened a working group of 57 corporate executives, government officials, academics and social activists. The group’s aim was to make Canada a world leader in ethical business conduct.

Participants proposed six basic reforms dealing with corporate responsibility, asking Ottawa to take the lead by requiring any firm doing business with the government to meet ethical and environmental criteria. Among other reforms they proposed were: calling on stock exchanges to tighten their listing procedures, insisting that any publicly traded company meet rigorous standards of reporting, disclosure and accounting; and asking postsecondary institutions to make ethical business conduct a central part of their curriculum.

The report that Cragg and his associates produced is now circulating in several government ministries, and the Privy Council is considering its recommendations. The Star said Cragg has been promoting corporate social responsibility for more than a decade but, until recently, business wasn’t buying. However, things started to change in 2001 when investors were scared by the Enron debacle.

Monitor antidepressants used by young, MD says

Prescription drug experts called on Health Canada to be far more vigilant in monitoring a huge increase in physician prescriptions of antidepressant drugs to children and teenagers, said The Globe & Mail Feb. 5. They charged Canadian doctors with prescribing the drugs, designed for adult use, to patients under the age of 18, despite the fact that the drugs have not been tested in a meaningful way on young people. “We’re in the dark,” commented Toronto physician Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s Atkinson School of Health Policy & Management and author of several books on prescribing guidelines for medical doctors. “The drugs may be good, but we need evidence. Right now, we’re simply hoping nothing bad will happen. We are gambling that they will prove more beneficial than harmful, but nobody knows.”

Lexchin told the Globe that most of the prescriptions are almost certainly issued by family doctors with limited knowledge of childhood psychiatric disorders. “But children’s brains are ongoing things, works in progress. We simply don’t know what these drugs will do to them because they were tested on adults.” He said that at the very least, Health Canada should be holding its own public hearings into the issue. “They say they’re reviewing the evidence. Well why not in public? Are they too close to the companies making the products?” Lexchin also discussed the issue on CBC Radio Feb. 6.

York alumnus woos famed actor

Filmmaker and York alumnus Carl Bessai (BFA ’89) has managed to woo renowned British actor Sir Ian McKellen, acclaimed most recently for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies, to star in Bessai’s latest film, Emile, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 6. Bessai was in Toronto recently to promote the movie. The Star described him as a born-again Canadian cultural nationalist, a type it is difficult to find in any of the arts today. He’s a fast talker, but driven by a passion for Canadian cinema that appears to exceed his desire to promote himself. “Cinema is another part of our culture that is important,” said Bessai, “the same way that books are important and music is important, and if we don’t nurture it [and] protect it to some extent, then it’s just another piece of our identity that disappears.” Bessai’s dedication to making films in Canada about Canadians impressed McKellen, said the Star. Bessai credits the actor as having a big enough talent to take a risk with an unknown Canadian director.

On Air

  • The Mandarin, Cantonese and South Asian news editions of OMNI.2 carried information about York’s Multicultural Week Feb. 5.
  • On CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” Feb. 5, York Professor Debra Pepler, of York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, discussed the issue of school bullying, which has sometimes triggered cases of suicide among youths. She fielded questions from people calling in to talk about “How can we stop or control bullying?”