Conservatives ‘stuck’ with prisoner voting rights

Prisoner voting rights were granted by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2002 under a Charter of Rights section that guarantees all Canadians aged 18 and over the right to vote, reported CanWest News Service June 20 in a story about parts of the Conservative election platform that violate the Charter of Rights. The section is immune from the notwithstanding clause so Parliament has no power to override that right. “They’re stuck with it,” said Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Monahan was also quoted in a Toronto Star story June 22 about Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci’s retirement. Iacobucci emerged as a consensus builder on the court, and together with retired justice and new York University Chancellor Peter Cory, rallied unanimous or often majority opinions on many contentious cases. “He’s pretty much a centrist. He ruled about one-third of the time in favour of Charter claimants, which is pretty much the court average overall,” said Monahan.

Tories’ Air Canada plan fair

A Tory plan would scrap the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which requires the airline to be based in Montreal and provide fully bilingual staff on all flights, reported the National Post June 21. Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, said removing the restrictions placed on Air Canada is not integral to its survival, but it will give the airline increased operational flexibility. ”The company will survive with that Act or without that Act. Will they move out of Montreal? Probably not, but at least that option will be open to them.” The Act’s removal would be greeted warmly by Air Canada’s equity partners, Lazar said. ”I think they’d be relieved” for “anything that gives Air Canada the same room to manoeuvre, the same flexibility as the other competitors in the marketplace.”

York professor raps UN’s Annan for bias against Jews

A leading Canadian human rights specialist has accused United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan of maintaining the world body as the “leading global purveyor” of discrimination against Jews, reported CanWest News Service in a story printed in the Edmonton Journal June 22. Anne Bayefsky drew applause from the mainly Jewish audience at the UN’s first-ever conference on anti-Semitism when she illustrated what she called Annan’s reluctance to get tough with anti-Semites by highlighting his failure to identify terrorists behind two Jerusalem suicide bombings this year. “Refusing to name the perpetrators, Mr. Secretary-General, Teflon terrorism, is a green light to strike again,” said the York University political science professor, now also an adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School in New York. She said Annan should start “condemning human rights violators wherever they dwell – even if they live in (the Arab capitals of) Riyadh or Damascus.” Bayefsky also said the world body has, for 40 years, singled out Israel for wildly disproportionate criticism while ignoring reasons behind Israeli retaliatory strikes. “Stop condemning the Jewish people for fighting back against their killers,” she said.

$8 sandwiches at Starbucks won’t work

The most obvious avenue to grow Starbucks’ sales is to pair coffee with food, reported the National Post June 21. But the food business creates unique hurdles for Starbucks, whose stores do not include kitchen space. And Starbucks has the challenge of maintaining its image as an upscale environment. “It’s different when you’re coming in at the expensive end of things,” said Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “Because with a $4 or $5 coffee it begins to look a little pricey when you start to you start to add $8 sandwiches. This is a company that hasn’t found what to add to its core product and, frankly, I’m not convinced there is an easy place for them to go.”

Lifestyle has entered health picture

Healthy people can legitimately claim that population lifestyle issues are now within their purview, but how is the leap to be made to questions of economic and social equity? asked the Cape Breton Post June 19. “In fact,” says Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy and Management, “so-called lifestyle factors – perhaps we should say life choice factors – are a relatively small cause in conditions such as diabetes and circulatory disease. The best predictors of disease and death are low income, insecure working and living conditions, and general material deprivation.”

It’s sex discrimination

As psychology Professor Les Green of York University’s Faculty of Arts pointed out in a recent lecture, most current marriage laws appear to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, but in fact they really discriminate on grounds of sex, argued the Kingston Whig-Standard in an editorial about taking the state out of the marriage business. Although these laws prevent lesbians and gay men from marrying a person of the same sex, they do not prevent gays and lesbians from marrying altogether. After all, a lesbian can marry a man; a gay man can marry a woman.

On air

  • Daniel Drache, associate director of York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, was the guest on CBC Newsworld’s call-in show “Newsworld Today” June 21. The question of the day was “Would Canada be well served by a minority government?”