Helping in Rwanda

While most teenage girls in Canada worry about boys, clothes and makeup, one 17-year-old girl halfway across the world has only one concern: seeing her parents’ bones, reported the North York Mirror Aug. 15. That girl lives in Rwanda, but also in Susan McGrath‘s memory, where her story is etched permanently. McGrath, a North York resident and professor in York University’s School of Social Work, met the girl last month while visiting the central African country. The girl’s parents were victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which Hutu militiamen killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

McGrath made the trip to Rwanda with a delegation of three researchers from the University of Western Ontario and one from Fanshawe College. The team visited from July 5 to 16 as part of Rebuilding Health in Rwanda, a mission designed to educate and train more nurses and doctors, help the country deal with the lingering effects of the genocide and find solutions to alleviate the country’s sweeping HIV/AIDS crisis.

Working for the weakened

Whether it’s as a trustee pushing for new schools, a city councillor insisting on pesticide-free parks, or a woman engaged in a battle with breast cancer, newly elected MP and York grad Susan Kadis never gives up without a fight, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 16 in a weekly series on the newly elected MPs from the Greater Toronto Area. “I fight for the rights of people who can’t fight for themselves when they need a voice,” said the 51-year-old representative of Thornhill. “I fought against cancer. When I’m down, I come up again.” A lifelong volunteer, Kadis says her entrance into politics more than 15 years ago came from a desire to serve her community. With a 1978 BA in sociology from York University, Kadis’s original goal was to be a social worker. “But I always say, in politics, I have a great opportunity to use a lot of the skills that I’ve built through the years.”

Out of exile

The drowning of Raymond Knister in 1932 in Lake St. Clair tragically silenced the voice of a widely published poet, essayist and writer, wrote a Hamilton Spectator reviewer Aug. 14. Little was published of Knister’s lively writing until the 1970s. With a renewed interest in early modern writers, there has been a revival of interest in Knister and his contemporaries. This continues with After Exile: A Raymond Knister Poetry Reader, edited by Gregory Betts, a Hamilton writer and an English literature teaching assistant in York University’s Faculty of Arts. He brings Knister’s work into sharp relief against the backdrop of early 20th-century Canada, a key period in the country’s artistic development, said the Spectator. Betts gives context to Knister’s work with explanations and notes, using some already published and some previously unpublished works and letters, using some materials in the archives at McMaster University.

WWE spectacle is like a medieval morality play

Andrew Clark compared the drama of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. matches to medieval morality plays, in a Toronto Star piece Aug. 14, a day before SummerSlam at the Air Canada Centre. Medieval morality plays found their plots in the everyday lives of their audiences, wrote Clark, a 1989 theatre grad from York. They were allegorical psychomachia, externalizations of the psychological struggles that faced medieval audiences. “In the Dutch morality play The Voluptuous Man (which I directed at York in 1986), a lad of leisure asks himself, ‘Who cares about heaven if life is like this?’ He encounters a host of vice figures who take him to the Inn of Worldly Pleasures, where he indulges himself. Then God’s Wrath shows up and he pays a heavy price. Wrestling is a contemporary take on the morality play formula and at WWE events, one can find the sort of psychological conflicts usually displayed on shows such as Jerry Springer….As in a morality play, temptation, retribution and redemption are the order of the day.”

Two Supreme Court vacancies to be filled within weeks

Peter Hogg, the former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and criminal lawyer Marlys Edwardh, who graduated from Osgoode in 1974, continue to be cited as contenders for two Supreme Court vacancies. They were listed as outside candidates in a Toronto Sun story Aug. 16 reporting that Prime Minister Paul Martin is set to name two new Supreme Court judges in the next week or so and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is warning him to avoid tainting the appointments system by making it too political.

Changing attitudes to Jane-Finch community

From the outside looking in, things sometimes look worse than they really are. La Toya Lyons and York student Safiya Williams found this out while working in the Jane and Finch area this summer, reported the The Toronto Sun Aug. 16. “I thought it was a shoot-em-up, bang-bang ghetto,” said Williams, who is originally from Montreal and now lives in Mississauga. Both young women now have totally different views of the neighbourhood after spending the summer doing social work and outreach for the Jane and Finch Concerned Citizens Organization (JFCCO). Said Williams, 20, a second-year sociology student at York: “I now know that 98 per cent of the people in Jane and Finch are hard-working and good people. It’s the other two per cent that are giving the neighbourhood a bad reputation.” Changing the community’s reputation is part of the work Williams and Lyons are trying to do in Jane and Finch. Williams feels there are real social problems, like housing, poverty and education that are impacting negatively on the community. To counter these issues, Williams and Lyons do tutorial work, they help run a sewing program, they try to recruit other young people to the JFCCO and they put together forums.