The problem with a sharia court

“These days, sharia (the system of laws of Islam) is the subject of hot debate in Canada, particularly in Ontario, where some Islamic community leaders are being allowed to formally use it as a basis of arbitration,” wrote Saeed Rahnema, professor and political science coordinator at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, in an opinion piece published Oct. 12 in The Globe and Mail. “It is wrong to assume, contrary to the simplistic views in the West shared ironically by the Muslim orthodoxy, that Islam is a monolithic religion,” argued Rahnema. “The complicated system of Islamic laws in different schools and sects covers all aspects of life, body and soul and, while they all agree on the basic principles of religion, they are different in other aspects, notably on the worldly aspects of Muslim life and social relations – issues such as marriage and divorce, polygamy, temporary marriage, adultery, inheritance etc. Ironically, these are the aspects that are supposed to be covered by the Ontario Arbitration Law for Muslim citizens of Ontario even though they belong to different sects and schools.”

Rahnema continued: “The Ontario government’s decision to cut spending and waiting time in the court system by allowing each religious community to apply its own religious laws has drastic implications for the separation of church and state and for the universality of human rights in this province.” He concluded: “In a truly democratic system, all religions should be free to practise in the private sphere of life without any limitations, but should stay separate from the state and the laws of the land that must be equally applied to all citizens. Violations of these principles will only lead to the weakening and erosion of democracy itself.”

Globe spotlights York’s online career counselling

The Internet is helping to solve one of the biggest challenges for the counselling services – the limited staff available for in-person career counselling for university students, reported The Globe and Mail in its annual student ranking of Canadian universities Oct. 13 (see YFile). For example, York University in Toronto, with 50,000 students, has added online counselling to its Web site. The Career Cyberguide uses streaming video workshops on topics ranging from academic choices to résumé preparation and interview skills. Each segment has a video presentation accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation that can be downloaded along with enrichment and background materials.

Open less than a year, the site has already won two major awards from education associations. While it originally was part of a password-protected site for access only by students, its advice on résumés and interviewing proved so useful in any job search that it has been opened to the general public, said Donna Robbins, director of York University’s Career Centre.

Student protester sues York despite lifting of three-year ban

A Jewish, pro-Palestinian student suspended for three years for participating in two noisy campus protests is suing York University and its president for $850,000, even though the school withdrew the punishment, reported Canadian Press Oct. 12, along with The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun Oct. 13. In a statement of claim filed Oct. 12 with Ontario’s Superior Court, Daniel Freeman-Maloy alleges abuse of power, defamation and the relatively unusual claim of breach of academic freedom. Freeman-Maloy, a 22-year-old political science student, also alleges he was libelled by the University. A statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court. York officials said Oct. 12 that University lawyers are reviewing the statement of claim and have no comment yet, but stated that the school acted in good faith in its dealings with the student.

Family pride drives Durie

Ask a top university football player about his goals in life and three of the first letters out of his mouth probably will be NFL or CFL. Ask Andre Durie, 23, the same question and you will get a different response, reported The Toronto Sun Oct. 9. “I just want to be there for my family – for my kids and my wife,” the sensational second-year York University Lions running back said. “Hopefully I’ll be successful, not [necessarily] by making tons of money, but just by having a good life with my family. That’s what I want.”

About five years ago, the Mississauga native would have been classified as a dumb jock. When it was time for football, he was at high school. When it was time for class, he often was somewhere else. But as his life changed, so did Durie. Football now comes third, behind his family (his sons Malcolm, 3, and Cian, 1, and his common-law wife, Amber) and his education. And yet, there he is, second in the nation in rushing heading into a game against top rusher Jesse Lumsden and his McMaster Marauders at York Stadium.

Stadium at York would benefit Vaughan

Having the Toronto Argonauts playing football just a stone’s throw from Vaughan will boost the city’s profile and economy, business and political leaders say, reported the Richmond Hill Liberal Oct. 10. Vaughan Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Paul Bradbury and Mayor Michael Di Biase are strongly behind a proposal for public-private partnership to build a 25,000-seat stadium at York University. Di Biase said a stadium on Vaughan’s border would have a positive impact on the city. “The tourism and hospitality sector is a growth industry in Vaughan and we are ready to welcome the world,” said Di Biase. “There is a golden opportunity to build a world-class facility at York University that will benefit the entire Greater Toronto Area. This initiative would create a new public-private partnership between the community, all levels of government, amateur and professional sports organizations and York University.” He believes York University is ideally located to house the stadium, given its proximity to highways and Pearson International Airport.

University hockey night in Toronto

With the National Hockey League season on ice, a Globe and Mail hockey reporter said the best-kept secret in hockey circles is Canadian university men’s hockey, and Toronto is fortunate to have two of the top clubs in Ontario University Athletics: the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues and the York Lions. There was a time when it was a surprise if York or U of T didn’t win the national championship. From 1966 to 1984, Varsity captured 10 national titles. Then York won three out of the next five. This year, the Lions are coming off another outstanding season. They won their fifth Ontario crown since long-time coach Graham Wise assumed the program back in 1987-1988.

The pitfalls of subtitling

The slippery world of the Canadian cinema, where the foreign is domestic and the domestic is foreign, is ideally placed to give birth to a book such as Subtitles: On the foreignness of film, wrote Globe and Mail arts critic Kate Taylor Oct. 13. This provocative new collection of essays and interviews interspersed with film stills and poetic art projects was edited by the Canadian director Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour, an English professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts. It includes writers of several nationalities and was published by the Canadian cultural periodical Alphabet City as its first collaboration with the MIT Press in Boston. In one contribution, writer and producer Henri Béhar, a professional subtitler among his many credits, catalogues the pitfalls of subtitling, explaining how technically constricted it is because the subtitler is only allowed one character for every two frames of film and less than 40 characters per line, and is never allowed to leave the title on the screen after a cut. 

Whose fault is rising cost of servicing new helicopters?

Martin Shadwick, a defence analyst at the York Centre for International and Security Studies, was cited in a Canadian Press story published Oct. 11 in The Globe and Mail about how Canada’s newest helicopters need up to 22 hours of maintenance for each hour of flight – far more than the seven hours originally forecast – and the extra work has pushed costs up by almost 50 per cent. The maintenance contract for the Cormorants was a source of controversy, with defence brass overruling the then chief of air staff, David Kinsman, who said squadron-level maintenance should be carried out only by military technicians, not by an outside contractor. Shadwick sided with Kinsman at the time, saying privatization often provides meagre savings and can leave the military without vital skills. Shadwick said it was hard to know who is at fault for the increased maintenance costs for the fleet of 15 Cormorants, ordered in 1998 for search-and-rescue work. But he noted the Cormorant privatization has drawn a veil over the operations of the contractor, removing them from public scrutiny. “The taxpayer is left not knowing all of the data,” he said. “In an age of alternative service delivery, I think that’s increasingly a concern.”

Corporate money seeks political parties in power

In a Globe and Mail story Oct. 9 about political fundraising, columnist Murray Campbell cites research by Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, which shows that corporate money seeks out political parties when they gain office. In the last election, he said, 64 per cent of Liberal donations – $2.78 million – came from business sources, about the same proportion as the Tories raised from corporations in their successful 1999 campaign. He said property developers and financial institutions are donating to the Liberals in the same way they used to give to the Conservatives. “It’s the same kind of group of interests that are trying to gain access to decision-makers,” he said.

On  air

  • Alison Macpherson, a professor of kinesiology at York University, was interviewed about a study showing that serious injuries from hockey bodychecking are on the rise, particularly among children, on CBC Radio morning programs in Sudbury and Thunder Bay Oct. 12.