Election means a return to secularism in India

Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, professor of political science at York University, is happy about the ousting of India’s ruling party, although she’s less sure about the winning Congress Party led by Sonya Gandhi, reported the Toronto Star May 14. “What is important is why the BJP and its allies are suffering this stunning defeat,” she said. “They called the election early because they felt they simply could return to power by the ‘feel good’ factor. And their main campaign line was ‘India shining.’ But many Indians didn’t feel good or feel the shine.” In fact, she said, most Indians saw no benefit from the economic reforms and establishment of an Indian Silicon Valley. “The prosperity of that was only shared by a minority of Indians. The majority of Indians didn’t even have the necessities of life. A huge number of Indians live under $1 a day.” Mukherjee-Reed suggested the return of Congress means a return to “secularism in India.” “It may not be perfect secularism, but at least the official agenda is not a religious agenda, and that is actually a good development,” she said.

Mukherjee-Reed also commented on the Indian election in a piece aired on CBC Newsworld’s national “NBN Early Edition” and CBC Radio’s regional shows in Sudbury, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Ottawa and St. John’s on May 13.

Union concessions key to Air Canada financing

Facing a deadline of midnight Saturday, Air Canada was waiting for its largest unions to decide whether to accept $200 million worth of wage and benefit cuts demanded by a German bank promising to bail out the carrier, reported the Toronto Star May 14. Their refusal could propel the airline closer to liquidation. “At some point, the players here will say this has dragged on long enough and they will walk,” said Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business who studies the airline industry. Lazar figured the unions were willing to turn down Air Canada’s proposals because they expect the federal government to bail out the country’s biggest airline – even though Transport Minister Tony Valeri has said Air Canada should work out a “long-term, private-sector” solution. “They are used to the government bailing them out and are still counting on that,” Lazar said. “It’s a big risk. They risk losing all of their jobs.”

Expelled student a born rebel

His father was a Vietnam draft dodger, his mother a Chicago civil rights activist. So the York University student who has been expelled for three years for using a bullhorn at unauthorized protest rallies may have come by his rebel ways honestly, reported the Toronto Star May 16 in a Page 3 feature with photo of Daniel Freeman-Maloy. Even his dad says he’s not surprised his son, who is Jewish but supports Palestinian human rights, has landed in the eye of a political storm at York University.

The Star noted that York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden has suspended the third-year student for three years for breaking campus rules by taking part in two protests this year on a prohibited part of the campus – despite being warned – and by using a megaphone both times, which she says disrupted nearby classes. In both cases, the 21-year-old activist was at the centre of a pro-Palestinian rally designed to counter a pro-Israeli demonstration. “He has repeatedly disrupted classes after being served warnings,” Marsden said, adding he ignored requests to meet with campus officials last fall after he broke the rules of protest the first time. Freeman-Maloy says he expected university officials would arrange the meeting last fall and then notify him. 

On a separate matter, reported the Star, Freeman-Maloy was slated to appear in court May 14 on a charge of loitering during a March rally in Markham organized by the Ontario Coaliton Against Poverty (OCAP) against Immigration Minister Judy Sgro and Ottawa’s decision to deport Algerian refugee claimant Mohamed Cherfi.

NOW magazine and Eye Weekly also carried stories about Freeman-Maloy in their May 13 editions.

Schulich students win CIBC Access Awards

For 2004, recipients of the CIBC Access Awards for Students with Disabilities include eight students from Ryerson University, four students from the Schulich School of Business at York University and two students from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, reported Canada News-Wire May 13. The awards were established with the Disabled Persons for Employment Equity Human Rights Group for postsecondary students with disabilities to help fund their education.

Season Finale features dream sequence by York grad

Tracey Norman, a York dance graduate (BFA ’03), created “Waving From The Inside” with seven female dancers who volunteered their dreams for the piece, wrote the Toronto Star’s Susan Walker in a review of Series 8 08 Season Finale at The Dancemakers Centre in the Distillery District. Rising from a half-kneeling position like a flock of sheep, the dancers awake, images of their dreams freshly with them. One remembers a baby that transforms into a baby carrot. It all might mean something to a Jungian analyst, but for your average dance audience, it is simply a smartly paced exercise in moving in unison, judged Walker.

On air

  • Thabit Abdullah Sam, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, talked about his visit back to Iraq, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” May 13.
  • Will Wicken, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, commented on the Historica Youth Links Summit, in which Canadian high-school students got a lesson in Acadian and Mi’kmaq history at the University of Moncton, in a CBC Radio item aired on Moncton and Fredericton regional news programs May 14.
  • On May 13, CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” aired an excerpt of a 2002 address to York University students at Osgoode Hall Law School by Prime Minister Paul Martin, who spoke of reforming Canada’s parliamentary system and eliminating the democratic deficit, as part of a piece about Martin’s announcement to create a democratic reform secretariat to head democratic reforms.