Deft court crafts an elegant option

National media sought reaction from legal experts at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School on the much-anticipated Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage for stories Dec. 10:

  • Prof. Bruce Ryder told Globe and Mail justice reporter Kirk Makin: “The Supreme Court is crafty – they often write their opinions in a way that everyone can find something to latch onto.” (His words became The Globe’s Quote of the Day.) Ryder said the court continued its steady march in favour of gay equality rights, yet it pointedly employed sparing prose, denying Justice Minister Irwin Cotler “the ringing endorsement of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right I think he was hoping for.” Ryder also commented on the decision in an interview aired on several CBC Newsworld programs Dec. 9.
  • Prof. Allan Hutchinson also told the Globe’s Makin that implicit in the Supreme Court’s opinion is a warning that Parliament be prepared to settle its own “hot potato” political issues. “The Supreme Court has shown how deft it is at appreciating and negotiating the tricky shoals of Canadian constitutional waters,” Hutchinson said. “It has told Parliament: ‘If you want to dance, face the music.’ ” The question that most fascinated those waiting for yesterday’s ruling was whether the court would answer a final question added onto the reference last spring by the federal government. It asked whether the existing definition of marriage – which had already been struck down in six provinces and one territory – was constitutional. Hutchinson said that by refusing to answer, the court deprived the government of an easy out. “It is not off the hook,” he said. “It cannot say, ‘We would love to hold to opposite-sex marriage, but the court will not let us.’ ”
  • Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan told Globe columnist John Ibbitson: “It was a beautifully crafted judgment.” The judges said the least they needed to say – that a bill referred to them by Parliament was, for the most part, legally valid.

New stadium will provide benefits to students

“The Toronto Star is chastising business leaders for deriving a tax benefit from a donation that will enable York University to build a much-needed stadium for its 50,000 students,” began a letter from Gary Brewer, vice president finance and administration at York to the newspaper Dec. 11. Brewer was referring to a Dec. 8 story that said the owners of the Toronto Argonauts are paying for their share of a new $70 million stadium they’ll be using at York University by making a $20 million tax-deductible donation to the school’s charitable foundation.

Brewer wrote: “Enthusiastic York students will use the stadium more than 300 times a year (not the 11 uses reported), vastly more than any other user. Community access is a fundamental aspect of the project, including soccer at the local, national and international level, led by the Canadian Soccer Association. Thus the Toronto Argos will be only one of a number of sports clubs in the community with access to this facility, in their case, for an estimated 10 games a year.

“The charitable sector is supported by donations and the tax benefits provided encourage such philanthropy. There is a long history of charitable donations being used to fund projects for the community that might not otherwise have been built. Why is a donation to a stadium at a publicly assisted university so different from a donation to an opera house or a museum? Currently, York has the lowest athletic space of any university in Ontario and is addressing this very real student need.

“The attempt to cast a questionable light on the York stadium is odd. In Canada, many university stadium projects have relied heavily on private donations. Is this yet another example of ‘downtownism’ by those who have a different agenda for the stadium?

“York is located in north Toronto and at the very centre of the Greater Toronto Area, making the stadium accessible to the entire region. The employment, salaries and overall economic and community benefits the new stadium will bring to this area are significant. Using the Star’s logic, most worthwhile public-private projects would never see the light of day and we would all lose.”

In the earlier Star story, Timothy Price, who chairs the York University Foundation’s board of directors, called the $20 million from the Argos a “wonderful addition to the capital integrity of York.” He said that when measuring the investment of taxpayer funds in the stadium project, “there’s very much a feeling this [York] is a publicly assisted institution.” 

Canadian Press and Broadcast News items on the donation were picked up by print and electronic media across the country Dec. 8 and 9.

Schulich and Rotman schools tied in FT rankings

Dezsö Horváth of York University has pushed his Schulich School of Business into a virtual tie with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management in the Financial Times rankings, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 10.

  • Horváth also participated in a debate over whether there is still a demand for MBAs and whether getting an MBA degree is worth it, on the Report on Business television call-in show, “Michael Vaughan Live” Dec. 9.

Through pain to find freedom

United Nations Human Rights Day is one of celebration for survivors of human-rights abuse around the world like former York student Alberto Lalli , reported the Toronto Star Dec. 10. Lalli’s journey to Canada began as a teen, when he led protests and advocated for the poor in the shanty town of Zarate, Argentina. He was kidnapped by militia at 19 and let go seven years later, after repeated torture. Told his parents and sister were on the hit list if he continued advocacy, Lalli came to Canada in December 1982. The former mechanic studied psychology at York University from 1983 to 1986. In Argentina, “I saw people tied up, blindfolded and beaten in jail. I saw people who were stronger than me break down in jail. I wanted to study to understand how to get our inner strength back,” said Lalli, 52 and a community legal worker defending labour rights with the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario. “I am actually quite amazed that now I get paid for what I got jailed for in Argentina – advocating for others’ rights.”

On air

  • Dianne Martin, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was the guest on CBC Radio’s call-in show “Ontario Today” Dec. 8 to discuss the question: If we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, why do we name names before a conviction? On Dec. 9, she discussed why witnesses to a bus shooting weren’t coming forward, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning.” Her comments were also aired on CBC Radio “News.”