York honours napalm victim and peace activist

Kim Phuc is known by millions as a little girl running for her life, her clothes burned off by searing napalm. “Everyone knows the photo, that little nine-year-old girl was being burned by napalm and she was crying ‘Too hot, too hot,’ ” said Kim, who was photographed in 1972 during an attack on her village in Vietnam. “I’m not running anymore. And that photo is a gift that I can use to promote peace.” Kim, 41, was standing proud as she accepted an honorary doctorate of laws from York University for her work to aid child victims of war around the world, reported Canadian Press Oct. 22 in a story and photo of Kim with York University Chancellor Peter Cory published by major regional newspapers in Ontario.

“After spending 14 months in the hospital it was always my dream to be a doctor, which I couldn’t do,” said Kim, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Canadian citizen and a mother of two boys. “And now I’m a doctor. Not a medical doctor, but it’s still wonderful.”

Kim – who lives in the Toronto area with her husband, children and parents – told the graduates and their families at Friday’s convocation ceremony how she couldn’t study medicine in Vietnam because she was used as a poster girl by the government. She was eventually allowed to study in Cuba where she met her husband Toan. When the two were allowed to take their honeymoon in Moscow in 1992, Kim decided to defect to Canada when their plane stopped in Newfoundland for refuelling. Kim tried to hide from the media, but she was found by a British tabloid a year after she moved to Toronto.

Kim said she decided the picture could help her spread a message of peace. “My picture is a symbol of war, but my life is a symbol of peace,” said Kim, who says she has forgiven those who bombed her village. “I have scars on my body but my heart is clear.” She started a charity, The Kim Foundation, in 1997 to help give medical attention to children who are victims of war and terrorism.

Other coverage included:

  • a front page photo in the Toronto Sun of Kim in cap and gown Oct. 23
  • a photo in The Globe and Mail Oct. 25
  • a prominent feature and photo in the North York Mirror
  • national coverage by Global Television, which included comments by Kim about being unable to watch news about Iraq (“I couldn’t listen to the radio because all the memories come back to me. It is so hard. It’s a very hard time for me.”) and by York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden (“Her story tells, has true tales. One is about the incredible suffering and devastation of war, and the other is about the strength of human spirit that’s brought her through.”)
  • items on CTV’s 6pm and 11:30pm newscasts Oct. 22 and on CTV NewsNet (national) Oct. 23
  • items on OMNI’s wide network
  • mention on Ottawa’s CFRO (the New RO).

Stadium pros

  • In The Toronto Sun’s Letter of the Day Oct. 25, R. Cesario argued that it is “wrong to raise the argument that taxes are being wasted on a playpen at York University for pro millionaires. First, the stadium is owned by York, a public institution. They own the land, and it’s their $15 million. The Canadian Soccer Association is a national sports organization. This will be their new home and therefore, federal dollars are quite justified for such a project. Universities are a provincial jurisdiction and therefore provincial aid is also justified. Toronto always tries to claim to be a ‘world class city’, but does not have a stadium to host world-class sporting events such as FIFA’s World Youth Championships. FIFA has already helped fund this stadium and will add more than $30 million more with the youth championships. Finally, we are not talking about hundreds of millions like the SkyDome, but only a small fraction of what was spent there.”
  • A proposed Major League Soccer franchise for Toronto would be a financial risk, but it could reap rewards for the national soccer program, the co-owners of the Toronto Argonauts say, reported the Star on its Oct. 24 sports pages. Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon said they were seeking an MLS team for the new 25,000-seat York University stadium in two or three years, an idea endorsed by MLS commissioner Don Garber. “Somebody has to find the right formula for soccer in this country,” said Cynamon, who has two sons playing minor soccer in North York. “Thousands of Canadians play soccer. For the future, it seems like a sport you want to invest in.”
  • Football fan and hotel manager Robert Lamoureux told the National Post Oct. 23: “I think it’s going to be good. Too many sports facilities are concentrated downtown. It’s bottlenecked with traffic and I think it will be good for York University, good for Toronto. People won’t be scared off by the location.”
  • Officials at the University of Toronto are counting the losses from having lost the Toronto Argos to rival York University, wrote the Calgary Herald’s Bruce Dowbiggin in an Oct. 25 column. “Plans for a new Varsity Stadium that would be home to the Argos and the Canadian Interuniversity Sports Blues were killed by the dilettante faculty that turned up their noses at athletics,” he wrote. “According to one source at the school, the U of T alumni (like moi) are threatening to withdraw financing, corporate sponsors are headed north to York and recruiting has been devastated by the shortsighted move.”

Stadium cons

  • In the Toronto Star Oct. 24, Tiffany Dickson, a second-year women’s studies student at York, argued: “While York University may seem like a great place to build the Argos’ new stadium, due to accessibility and space, one must stop and think about the impacts it may have.” Among her points: “The SkyDome is located in the centre of the city, accessible through Union Station, by all citizens. Everyone can afford to take the TTC and it cuts down on the pollution that we send into the atmosphere. It’s very important to realize that, although driving across the 401 or 407 seems easier, how is this easier for those individuals who do not drive or cannot afford to buy a car?”
  • Football fan and pizza maker Jim Ross told the National Post Oct. 23: “People won’t make the trip up there. It’s a pain in the ass. Sure, you get a new, pretty stadium, but you definitely lose a lot of the intangibles of being smack dab in the city.”

War of aggression a supreme international crime

Linda McQuaig cited a York law professor in a Toronto Star opinion piece Oct. 24 about American reaction to invading British opinions about the upcoming US presidential election. “Washington has no right to invade another country. In other words, this [election] isn’t just about the safety of Americans. It’s about the safety of other people, too,” wrote McQuaig. “Michael Mandel, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, notes that the Nuremberg Tribunal following World War II ruled that starting a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, because it’s the crime from which all the other war-related crimes flow,” she wrote. “Mandel argues that the invasion of Iraq amounts to the supreme international crime. Washington presents its ongoing attacks on insurgents as self-defensive, but Mandel insists that an aggressor has no right to self-defence. ‘If you break into someone’s house and hold them at gunpoint and they try to kill you but you kill them first, they’re guilty of nothing and you’re guilty of murder.’”

Halloween wasn’t always for kids

Originally, Halloween wasn’t just for kids, according to York University history Professor Nick Rogers, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 23. While it may date back to a Celtic harvest ritual, its practices have evolved over time. On All Hallows Eve in the Middle Ages, the poor would go to the homes of the rich for cakes and ale, in return for praying for that family’s deceased members.

It also became a time of pranks, of soaping windows, stuffing chimneys. “It was rough justice against the neighbourhood crab,” says Rogers, author of Halloween From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. Young children dressed in costumes shouting “Trick or Treat” was an invention of suburbia in the late 1940s, he says. “It was an attempt to make it more infantile, to take the rough edges off.” Adults began to take back the night in the 1970s. Gay communities in several large cities staged lavish Halloween parades, which became part of coming out. “In the wake of it being a gay night, it became a party night,” Rogers said.

The high cost of divorce

Divorce hurts the financial health of women more than men, reported The Ottawa Sun Oct. 25. In spite of support payments, a woman’s family income drops 20-40 per cent the first two years after a divorce. Even three years after divorce, a woman’s income is still far below her ex-husband’s. “There is a substantial number of women who after divorce fall into poverty,” said Anne-Marie Ambert, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and one of Canada’s top experts on divorce and one-parent families. But Ambert said defining poverty solely in terms of income ignores the fact that women usually don’t have the same level of RRSPs, real estate and other types of investments as men. She also notes that only 50 per cent of fathers regularly meet support payments. The roots of women’s poverty after a marriage breakup can be traced to when women become mothers and opt out of the workforce, said Ambert. “I think when we think in terms of having policies in place after divorce has occurred, we’ve missed the boat.”

A working underclass of single mothers

Despite the fact women are matching men’s employment numbers and even outnumbering them in university lecture halls, women on the job remain third-line stringers on an unequal playing field, reported The Ottawa Sun Oct. 25. Social policy experts point to a cluster of factors that keep women behind the earnings 8-ball. Motherhood tops the list. Many mothers return to part-time work to help juggle their responsibilities at home. But they pay a price for taking casual, temporary and part-time jobs, which some experts call “non-standard employment.” Leah Vosko, a social scientist and Canada Research Chair at York University, calls them “precarious jobs” – and women are increasingly filling them, creating a new working underclass. Employers are turning to subcontracting to improve their bottom line but Vosko says workers filling precarious jobs are getting the raw end of the deal, with little job security, limited social benefits and low wages.

Tech firms neglect older generation

So far, tech companies either do not target seniors at all, or have little success doing so, reported the National Post Oct. 25. Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says no high-tech industry has successfully targeted people over the age of 65. However, Middleton says older customers will be increasingly valuable to tech companies as Canada’s population ages. By the time Baby Boomers reach retirement age, they will have lived with computers, cellphones and other gadgets for several decades, making tech an easier pitch for marketers than today’s seniors. Yet there are challenges to pitching technology to seniors. According to Middleton, older customers do not have the same needs and uses for technology as younger people. In the mobile phone market, the trend is for smaller phones with added features such as cameras and different ring tones. But seniors demand larger, easier-to-use phones.

Autumn portfolio cleaning in order

According to Mark Kamstra, professor of finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business, pumpkin season is clearly a time of change in money behaviour, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 23. “Investors tend to rebalance away from risky assets into safer ones in the fall,” he said. Preliminary research on mutual fund flows by Kamstra and his associates supports the idea that investors get risk averse as winter comes. “Toward the end of October and into November and early December there appear to be outflows from equity funds into bond funds,” he notes.

One reason, interestingly enough, might actually be seasonally linked, in the same way that those suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, are more likely to be afflicted by periods of depression as the days shorten. They discovered that SAD sufferers were more likely to be risk averse in the shortening days of fall and early winter, but more willing to take risks as the days begin to lengthen.

Subway would connect Downsview ‘park’

The long-awaited redevelopment of the north end of the city has been in the works for years, but so far nothing has appeared, wrote Christopher Hume in the Toronto Star Oct. 23. The latest prediction is that Canada’s first “national urban park” – though no one can explain exactly what that means – will get underway next spring. If and when the Toronto Transit Commission extends the underground to York University, the line will either go through the park, which would be ideal, or skirt it. The result would be a whole new level of connectivity, Hume figured.