Integrity testing could help cure police corruption

One of the most novel proposals to emerge among the responses to Toronto’s high-profile cases of alleged corruption is the idea of “integrity testing,” reported a CanWest News Service story printed May 1 in Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix and May 2 in the Calgary Herald.

In New York – repeatedly rocked over the years by major police corruption scandals – formal integrity monitoring is serious business. The city’s 40,000 officers know that any time they respond to a call they could be encountering one of the 1,500 sham drug busts or other manufactured incidents conducted each year by a specialized unit of the internal affairs department – Integrity Control Officers – dedicated to running ethical litmus tests on their colleagues. 

“The introduction of the system has also seen the reporting of attempts to bribe police officers soar,” notes a report on the New York program by Transparency International, an anti-corruption advocacy organization with offices in 85 countries around the world. The organization’s Canadian president, business ethics Professor Wes Cragg of York’s Schulich School of Business, says integrity testing makes sense as one part of an overall strategy to combat corrupt behaviour and misconduct. “Police have a kind of authority that virtually no other group in our organized society has,” said Cragg. “And it’s quite clear that establishing confidence in their integrity is extremely important in maintaining confidence in the whole political system. Clear steps have to be taken.” He’s adamant that for every penalty or deterrent implemented to curb police misconduct there must be measures for “rewarding people who are committed to sound ethical standards.”

Integrity testing, in combination with more careful hiring, better training and a broad education in ethics for all officers, could help prevent corruption. “I think we have to become much more intentional about building values of integrity into our public systems,” said Cragg. “And this could well be one of the tools.”

Many divorces unnecessary, marriages salvageable

Canada has one of the highest rates of divorce in the western world, ranking fifth behind world leaders the US, Cuba, Britain and France, reported the Toronto Sun May 2. More than one-third of all marriages in this country end in divorce. “We have…seen that a sizable proportion of marriages that end in divorce were actually quite ‘salvageable’ and that many of these ex-spouses are no happier after,” noted sociologist Anne-Marie Ambert of York University’s Faculty of Arts in a report for the Vanier Institute of the Family. “One cannot help but wonder if couples who marry should not be more encouraged to face the inevitability of ups and downs in relationships, and I am not referring here to severe conflict, which after all, afflicts only about a third of divorcing couples. After 25 years of studying divorce, I have come to conclude that there are too many divorces that are useless.”

Children are often the big losers. Compared to kids of parents who remain together, the York University sociologist says children of divorce are at greater risk of suffering from depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders; exhibiting behavioural problems; becoming young offenders; and doing less well in school. As they grow older, children of divorce are at greater risk to be more often unemployed, do less well economically; have more marital problems and divorce more. “A lot of people who decide on divorce don’t realize how hard it is going to be and a lot of them with children don’t realize how badly the children are going to take it,” said Ambert. “We do need divorce for the really bad marriages, but the ones that shouldn’t happen…are a problem.”

The politics of corporate bailouts

There are plenty of similarities between the bankruptcy restructurings at Air Canada and Stelco Inc. but a common thread is how the shortfall in their pension plans helps explain their insolvency, reported the National Post May 1. One stark difference, however, is how the politicians are treating the troubled companies. “[Bailouts] are always driven by politics. It’s got nothing to do with sound policy from the overall perspective of the country,” said Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “It depends on the political importance of the companies. You don’t find many companies that warrant government attention.” With an election in the offing, help for Air Canada is less likely, Lazar said. Prime Minister Paul Martin “doesn’t want to do anything to antagonize the West. And bailing out a Quebec-based company antagonizes the West,” Lazar said. And the presence of WestJet, the successful discount carrier from Calgary, also plays a factor, he argued. “If WestJet did not exist…you’d probably see Ottawa a lot more receptive to the idea [of help] since Air Canada is a major employer in Quebec.”

Refurbished Glendon mansion open for fundraiser

More than 50 of Toronto’s best interior designers and garden design firms, with the help of their tradespeople, suppliers and manufacturers, have spent months refurbishing every corner of one of the city’s historic mansions, York’s Glendon Hall, reported the National Post May 1. With the opening of Glendon Hall to the public, the Junior League of Toronto is hosting its seventh annual fundraiser, from May 8 to June 6. Proceeds will go in part to the Pathways to Education Program, which provides a blend of academic, social, financial and advocacy support to at-risk, economically disadvantaged young people from Regent Park housing community so they can stay in school and move on to postsecondary education. York University is partnered with Pathways through its Regent Park teacher education site, which gives teacher candidates a sense of the rewards and challenges of teaching in inner-city communities. “I am delighted,” says Lorna Marsden, York University president and vice-chancellor, “that the show house will raise funds for several important educational projects that will help improve the lives of youth in need within our community.”

Expressing Daoism

For York University master of fine arts candidate Doris Sung, the ancient Chinese philosophy of Daoism is not only a way of life, but an artistic inspiration as well, reported the North York Mirror May 1. Sung’s latest exhibit, Wandering Boundless and Free – A Visual Trajectory, is currently running at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). For the exhibit, the artist used a number of different media to focus on Daoism’s themes of change and fluidity, as well as the breaking down of humanity’s people-centric view of the universe. “I used a lot of the traditional elements of the philosophy, but I primarily looked at the relationship between humanity and nature,” she said. Sung’s work ranges from ink painting to calligraphy and her canvases range from light cotton fabrics to xuan (rice) paper. Her paintings are often collage-based, with a glossy screen placed over the art to give her works a glass- or water-like appearance. “By putting a translucent layer on top of the paper, it creates a metaphor for water and the painting appears to shift and change the way water changes,” she said.