York grad is frontrunner for police services seat

A human rights consultant and adviser to Mayor David Miller is likely to be named as the city’s representative on the Toronto Police Services Board, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 28. Alok Mukherjee, who completed his PhD in English at York University this year, is the frontrunner among three finalists to replace Alan Heisey on the board, sources said. Mukherjee has built a reputation as an equity and human rights advocate in the city. An immigrant from India, he is a former vice-chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and past member of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, the provincial police oversight tribunal. After Miller was elected last year, Mukherjee was named to his transition advisory group, co-chaired by former mayor David Crombie and urban expert Jane Jacobs. In his cover letter to the nominating committee, Mukherjee said he could help the board become “a positive force in the community.”

Andre’s a giant with the ball

York University running back Andre Durie drives through defences with the due diligence of a diabolical dentist, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 25. Before he even makes a move he studies the field, scopes for cracks, and when he sees a cavity he’s going to make it worse. Last Saturday Durie’s wrath had the Waterloo Warriors aching for some novocaine. The 23-year-old recorded six touchdowns, tying Jim Reid’s 1977 Canadian Interuniversity Sport record, in a 55-33 shellacking. Durie reached the end zone every other time he touched the ball and finished the game with 211 yards on only 12 carries. Last year Durie broke the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) single-game rushing record, carrying the football for a 349-yard tour at the expense of the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

On Sept. 26, The London Free Press carried a Canadian Press sports roundup highlighting sophomore Durie’s two touchdowns in a subsequent OUA game in which the York University Lions defeated the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 45-41 in the 35th annual Red and Blue Bowl.

Self-acceptance key to natives’ future

Practising law wasn’t doing anything to change conditions for aboriginal people, so Mohawk Patricia Monture-Angus went to teach sociology to people she hopes some day will, reported the Winnipeg Free Press Sept. 25. Monture-Angus, who earned an LLM from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1998, surprised a packed audience at the University of Winnipeg when she told them that they have many responsibilities and just one right: to be the aboriginal people they are. The University of Saskatchewan sociology professor and author is a member of the advisory board that’s helping to set up a First Nations Governance Centre. That body will in turn help aboriginal organizations working toward native self-government. But there won’t be a system of self-governance that works until there is more self-knowledge, and aboriginal people accept who they are, said Monture-Angus.

Assisted-suicide debate muted

In a Sept. 28 column on assisted suicide, The Globe and Mail’s Michael Valpy interviewed academic experts about how it should work. Roxanne Mykitiuk, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, pointed out there has been no “robust” public discussion on these “operational questions” – on the issues of consent or what constitutes a good death. “Part of it is fear of talking about death,” said Mykitiuk

Newcomers to Canada struggle to close wage gap

For the average male immigrant who came to this country in the 1970s, life was good. But the past two decades have seen a dramatic reversal of fortune, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 28. Michael Ornstein, director of York’s Institute for Social Research, analyzed data from the 1996 census and found more than half of Toronto’s visible minority families lived below Statistics Canada’s low-income line. The rate among white families was less than 10 per cent. The study, commissioned by the City of Toronto, concluded Ethiopians, Ghanaians, Afghans and Somalis were the most disadvantaged, with poverty rates ranging from 52.2 per cent to 70 per cent.

Controversial translation of Qur’an

An Associated Press story printed Sept. 26 in The Telegram in St. John’s about a new translation of the Qur’an by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem quotes Amila Buturovic, a humanities professor with York’s Faculty of Arts. She said the Qur’an is so rich, so complex, that even for Arabists and literary critics it is a phenomenal challenge, making any translation highly problematic.

Game to teach kids about diseases

York University Professor Jennifer Jenson believes that video games are potentially powerful learning tools, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 27. Jenson, a professor of pedagogy and technology in the Faculty of Education, is creating a prototype of a game she calls Contagion, “aimed at teaching nine- to 13-year-olds how to self-manage themselves to avoid contracting infectious diseases,” she said. The game is designed to show its young players how diseases — such as the new strains of flu, SARS, West Nile virus and HIV/AIDS — can mutate and develop when the individual is not in control. “As educators we have to ask ourselves what children are already learning from video games, and how can we use the video game format to provide them with an engaging way of learning,” she said. Jenson hopes Contagion will be ready for testing in April. It is designed to make use of existing Web-based technologies, making it playable in any classroom with an Internet connection.

Survey leads to call for elderly care reform

A Guelph Mercury editorial Sept. 27 cites a York University survey of 1,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees working in 18 nursing homes in Ontario. The Mercury argued that “the urgency of getting new staff in place in short order is underscored in the details of the survey conducted by two York University professors.” The newspaper concluded: “The survey report’s title is There Are Not Enough Hands, a heading that calls out for a reform.” If the McGuinty Liberals “fail to insist on accountability and reasonable, enforceable standards of care from those who are entrusted with the care of our elderly citizens, these reforms will be needlessly tarnished.”

On air

  • Thomas R. Klassen, political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, talked about a new report that suggests an aging population in Ontario may lead to a serious shortage in skilled labour which could be solved with skilled immigrants, on “OMNI News: South Asian Edition” on Toronto’s OMNI.2 Sept. 27.