Reluctant witnesses may fear retribution

A recent shooting on a public-transit bus left an innocent 11-year-old girl seriously wounded, her eyesight in peril, but despite almost 40 potential witnesses on board the bus and close by, very few have come forward, reported Canadian Press in a story picked up by the Vancouver Province and The Record of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge Dec. 3. Crime-weary and in fear of retribution, their silence might also be rooted in a mistrust of police, said sociologist Desmond Ellis, a crime expert with York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution. “There is an anti-snitching norm,” Ellis said. “Those who feel they’ve been badly treated by the police, mistreated, picked upon, racially profiled, may feel under no obligation to help the police.” That’s because the perceived costs of giving evidence could exceed the benefits to them or their loved ones, Ellis said, adding witnesses are acutely aware that once they give evidence to police, they must return and live in those troubled neighbourhoods.

The issue of reluctant witnesses is not unique to Toronto, said Ellis, noting the infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, N.Y., in 1964 – a chilling case that sent shockwaves across North America. Her murder first raised the spectre of so-called “Bad Samaritans” when Genovese was stabbed to death in front of 38 onlookers who stood by idly, doing nothing to intervene despite her repeated cries for help over the 30-minute attack. It is not known how widespread the problem is in Canada, Ellis said. But Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada does consider the “intimidation of criminal justice” participants – including jurors, lawyers, judges and witnesses – to be an “emerging concern.”

Apple’s iTunes could corner Canadian market

Apple’s iTunes Store is now available in Canada, selling songs ranging from rare white labels to chart-topping singles from mainstream pop artists, all for 99 cents each, reported Canadian Press in a story published Dec. 3 by the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, Halifax’s The Daily News and the Penticton Herald. Apple’s iTunes joins several other legal download sites available in Canada such as, and Quebec’s Rick Broadhead, a technology analyst and author, expects iTunes to “blow everyone out of the water.” It’s that kind of positive word of mouth that’s helped make iTunes the market leader everywhere it’s available, said Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York’s Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University. The fact that an American company could potentially swallow homegrown businesses doesn’t really matter to consumers, he added. “People don’t buy on nationalism. People buy on what benefits something offers. What iTunes has done is create a tremendous buzz around their product. This is the product of choice.”

CIBC CEO studied at York

After five sometimes tumultuous years at the helm of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, chief executive officer John Hunkin has provided investors with a blueprint for the bank’s succession plans, a move insiders say could pave the way for his departure in the next twelve months, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 3. Hunkin, 60, joined the bank after earning an MBA at York University in 1969.

Fat children risk becoming fat adults

Getting kids into healthy lifestyles early can avoid obesity later on in life, reported Hamilton’s The Spectator Dec. 3. The newspaper cited a 2000 York University study that found children who are overweight are more at risk of becoming obese adults.

On air

  • Political scientist David Dewitt, director of the York Centre for International & Strategic Studies, discussed why Canada voted against a United Nations resolution to support Middle East peace and Palestinians’ right to self-determination in Israeli-occupied territories, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Dec. 2.
  • Sociologist Norene Pupo, director of York’s Centre for Research on Work & Society, discussed how job-hunters without experience get that experience by training in co-op programs, doing volunteer work or working at a practice firm, a sort of workplace simulator, on CBC Radio’s “Ottawa Morning” Dec. 2.