Monahan is the man of the moment on Supreme Court

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was the go-to guy for comment on the Aug. 24 nominations of Ontario Court of Appeal justices Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron to the Supreme Court. He was on CBC Radio Ottawa, he was on CBC Radio Toronto, he was on countless CBC Television News shows across the country. And he was all over the newspapers.

Discussing the nominees’ impact on the court in The Globe and Mail Aug. 25, Monahan said, “They would not make any dramatic change in the character of the court. Both are very experienced, very much in the mainstream.” The appointments are “outstanding”, he added. “They complement each other and add to the strength of the court.”

In a Toronto Star profile of Abella, Monahan called her “a tremendous appointment”, adding the selection of two women suggests the prime minister was also trying to send the message that he was not consumed with gender politics and was “nominating the best candidates for the job.” The Star also noted that Abella is married to historian Irving Abella, York’s J. Richard Shiff Professor of Canadian Jewish Studies.

In a Canadian Press story circulated nationally, Monahan said both judges would be excellent additions to the court. “They certainly have advanced and stood strongly for same-sex rights,” he said. “But judges right across Canada have interpreted the charter as supporting and protecting same-sex rights. The Supreme Court itself has unanimously done so.” Monahan told CP that high-court nominees should meet with a screening advisory panel before being appointed. “Hopefully the government will extend it a little further next time and permit questioning and discussion with the candidates themselves.”

Osgoode’s Hutchinson weighs in on mandatory retirement

Allan Hutchinson, Osgoode’s associate dean of research and graduate studies, made “The Case for Mandatory Retirement” in an Aug. 25 opinion piece in The Globe and Mail. “At first blush, the mandatory-retirement issue seems straightforward,” he wrote. “Surely, a 65-year-old teacher should be permitted to continue in the classroom if she has the will and ability to do so? If it were only the educator’s interests at stake, it would be hard to disagree. But it isn’t just the teacher who is affected by mandatory retirement. While the present rules obstruct her desire to continue teaching, they offer a measure of security to many others. The teacher’s liberty is just one value within a larger social whole.”

Hutchinson went on to detail worries about job evaluation, eligibility for pension benefits and differences between blue-collar and white-collar workers. “The claim that abolishing mandatory retirement will promote individual liberty is far from compelling,” he concluded. “Social justice includes, but is not exhausted by, considerations of personal choice. If we want to deal seriously with retirement, we must also talk seriously about pensions. Older Canadians deserve no less.”

Top marks no guarantee of university success, survey finds   

Most first-year university students arrive on campus with high-school transcripts peppered with As, but only a minority are very successful at meeting the academic demands, Canada’s most comprehensive survey of freshmen has found. CanWest News Service reported Aug. 25 that the survey of over 11,100 students at 27 universities found that 36 per cent of first-year students in 2003-2004 reported having “very much success” in meeting academic demands.

Slightly fewer students – about one in three – reported being very successful at “performing adequately” in written assignments and in courses requiring math skills, even though 64 per cent of first-year students earned averages in high school in the A range and the overall grade of these students at the end of their secondary schooling was close to an A- (an average of 5.8 out of seven, with six translating into an A-).

The results of the questionnaire, commissioned by the Canadian University Survey Consortium and coordinated by the University of Manitoba, also highlighted the growing gender imbalance on campuses – female students outnumber males by a factor of two to one in first-year.

Overall, just over six students in 10 reported being satisfied with the concern shown by their university for them as individuals, including 13 per cent who said they were very satisfied. Larger institutions scored lowest in this area.

Participating universities included the University of Victoria, the University of BC, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, University of Windsor, University of Toronto at Scarborough, York University, University of Ottawa, Carleton, Concordia, University of Montreal, and Dalhousie University.

On air

  • Sue Wilson, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, spoke to Toronto’s 680 News Aug. 24 about how top athletes cope with the stress of international competition.